ALEXANDRIA, VA – If you are interested in a bit of classic theatre, head straight over to Little Theatre of Alexandria for a new production, Wait Until Dark, which is edgy and provocative, and sometimes head scratchingly obtuse, but with a shocking well-staged ending that you won’t see coming. Of course, you may have seen the 1968 film version (starring Audrey Hepburn) of the stage play that ran for 373 performances on Broadway in 1966, but this refresher production live and onstage in your neighborhood will make you glad to have access to live theatre again!
Here’s the plot as described in the program notes by Heather Benjamin, the production’s director, who made the most of this engaging, but sometimes confusing material. “Frederick Knott’s play begins by introducing three con men—Roat (Adam R. Adkins), Mike (Brendan Quinn), and Carlino (Brendan Chaney)—who are in search of a doll containing illegal drugs. They set a trap for Susy (Mel Gumina), the heroine we do not meet until the very end of the first scene. It turns out that a year earlier, Susy lost her sight in an accident, and just six months later, she married Sam (Ryan Washington), a photographer.”
Other cast members you will meet are Gloria (Julia Stimson on the night I saw the play, and Juliet Strom on alternate nights), the young upstairs neighbor, who bedevils Susy by moving furniture around and lying about other matters that are integral to the plot. Susy’s husband, Sam, (well-played by Ryan Washington) seems totally bereft of empathy for his handicapped wife and as such, just seems annoying and overbearing. I found it strange that these two would actually fall in love and marry! (But that’s just me!) Two more cast members are the Policemen played by Bill Gery and Michael Townsend.
If you saw the 1968 movie, Wait Until Dark, with the amazing Audrey Hepburn, Mel Gumina, who truly carries the show, looks very much like a young, beautiful Audrey Hepburn and keeps the play moving and fascinating. For me, evoking Hepburn is a big plus, but even better, she can act! Her scenes where the con men have crept into her basement apartment, (designed by Julie Fischer) are gripping.
That apartment set, by the way, looks exactly like my idea of a 1966 basic Greenwich Village basement apartment with a set of stairs leading down to the living area and high basement windows with venetian blinds and a view of the street. The furniture is shabby chic mid-century vintage. A little disturbingly, there is a front door that is mostly left open, even though there is a blind person living in the apartment. Also, a little odd for me (I was living in New York in 1966), they have a washing machine. Wow! Most people in luxury apartments STILL don’t have washing machines in New York city! But I’m willing to suspend my judgement on that for now…
Mel behaves very much like you would expect a blind person to act—stumbling over furniture which gets moved out of place and accurately showing some confusion, but keeping her cool until the plot to find the doll heats up through the machinations of the three con artists. Those guys are seemingly “stooges” who (it appears to me), should easily see through the roadblocks set up by the “mastermind” of the three (smarmily played by Adam R. Adkins). Just sayin’. The young girl, Gloria, is integral to the plot and, as beautifully played by Julia, is by turns mean and irritating, then, when the plot to locate the doll gets really serious and life-threatening, well—I’m not going to give that away. I will tell you that the fight choreographer Stefan Sittig’s handling of one of the final scenes will send chills down your spine. Enjoy the show!
Ticket and Covid 19 Information: Wait Until Dark runs through 11/6/21 at Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call 703-683-0496 or go online at www.thelittletheatre.com. Masks covering the nose and chin are required for the entire performance. Also required is proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative test taken within 72 hours before arrival at the theatre.