Christina Bennett Lind and Michael Sharon
Christina Bennett Lind and Michael Sharon
© John W. Engeman Theater
You don't want to have to Wait Until Dark to see John W. Engeman Theater at Northport's current production of Frederick Knott's creepy caper. A slick, tense, whodunit, this craftily orchestrated piece is worth rushing out to catch immediately.

Audiences will instantly find themselves donning their thinking caps as the suspenseful thriller gets underway. A slippery con man, Roat (Michael Sharon), smooth talks his way into the home of an unsuspecting blind woman, Susy Hendrix (Christina Bennett Lind), with the help of a pair of low-rate swindlers, Talman and Carlino (G.R. Johnson and Eric Rolland). As the criminals attempt to weave their way around Susy's apartment in search of drugs that are unknowingly in her home, anxiety and trepidation build to a climactic finale of intrigue.

Wait Until Dark originally opened in 1966 on Broadway (and was revived once in 1998). Director Alan Souza captures this gritty feeling of the 60s through all aspects of the show from actor performance to sets and costumes. The cast interacts with the stage as though it is another character, utilizing every inch of space in Susy's well-worn New York apartment.

Souza has also made great efforts to show the nuances of a blind person's challenges, and Bennett Lind has achieved great realism in her portrayal. She never forgets to feel her way up and down a staircase, or count her steps from the table to the couch. Her detailed facial expressions easily mark her attention to her character's four remaining senses. The character's handicap becomes an absorbing challenge for the audience, as they attempt to deduce what she is hearing and thinking about the illicit actions surrounding her.

Sharon's Roat is intense and deceptive, and very biting in his pervasive threats to Susy. Souza seamlessly has the criminals transform into more than one character as they construct a story to mislead Susy. Sharon switches from a seedy con man into an old, mysterious fellow, and then into the man's son, a "burglar." Mark Adam Rampmeyer's thoughtful hair and make-up design help contribute to the character changes.

There is an inventive cleverness in the way the lighting design interacts with the intricate staging and set design. Jonathan Collins' scenic design is the star of this show. Devices from the 60s such as an icebox, rotary telephone, rusty safe, and washing machine all offer integral plot devices. Their colors are smudged and faded, and easily match the darkness that marks the tone of the story. Jill Nagle's lighting plays a large role in the show's invigorating finale.

Wait Until Dark captures the audience with its complex story and noir undertones. In a time when gore and extreme violence run rampant in film and television, it's refreshing to find horror in the chase, more so than in a pool of blood.