Theatre Palisades Reopens with a Tense, Vigorous ‘Wait Until Dark’

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Brett Chapin (left), Vanessa White, and Manfred Hofer perform in “Wait Until Dark.”
Photo: Joy Daunis

By LIBBY MOTIKA

Circling the News Contributor

 

Live theatre is back! That was evident Friday night as an eager crowd entered Pierson Playhouse proudly wearing their LTIB sticker!

A long-delayed hiatus and yearlong pause on the opening of “Wait Until Dark,” added to the excitement.

In preparation, Theatre Palisades has paid close attention to the ongoing health guidance provided by the County Department of Health. Attendees were required to show proof of vaccination and to wear a mask while inside the venue, which had received a thorough cleaning. Upgraded filters and condenser units were also installed.

In “”Wait Until Dark,” Aristotle’s three principles of drama serve to heighten what is “”a slow-burn” thriller.

These principles, called unity of action, unity of place and unity of time, create a claustrophobic physical and emotional vulnerability for Susy and Sam Hendrix, who live in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village.

In this confined space the action unfolds in just a few hours. Susy is recently blind due to an auto accident and through her vulnerability the audience experiences the terror of the story.

The action, directed by Tony Torrisi, coalesces around a missing doll that a mysterious woman had given Sam at the airport to deliver to a child in the hospital.

When the woman shows up at the apartment to collect the doll, Sam can’t find the doll and the woman leaves. What Sam and Susy don’t know is that the doll is packed with almost two pounds of heroin.

The frantic search for the doll invites a trio of criminals who try to con Susy into giving back the doll.

While Sam is away on business, the thugs show up at her apartment with a number of schemes to retrieve the doll. This works for a while until Susy becomes aware of the dangerous men moving through her apartment.

The audience suffers with Susy as she bravely tries to navigate her physical environment, stumbling around her apartment, reaching for objects and using her foot to find steps. We see dangers that she cannot, but that she can feel waiting to hurt her.

The tension is acute, further enhanced by the sound design and light design; the ominous shrill ringing phone and the dark stage.

Through Susy, we experience the psychological fear of things we can’t see but suspect are there. In the last 10 minutes of the play, we are thrust into the dark, our hearts pounding as we watch the menace build.

In her role as Susy, Vanessa White subtly moves from a sightless, helpless woman to finding her courage, relying on her keen hearing and insight to catch onto the plot.

The trio of criminals are at once charming but menacing. Brett Chapin’s Mike Talman’s sympathy is almost convincing, while Sgt. Carlino (Josh Paris) remains transparently avaricious.

Manfred Hofer’s Harry Roat performs a breathless series of guises, sometimes charming, sometimes teasing. His is a part any actor would relish.

“Wait Until Dark,” produced by Martha Hunter and Sherman Wayne, continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday until October 3 at Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Blvd. For tickets, contact theatrepalisades.com of 310-454-1970.

 

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