“Wait Until Dark” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ November 17, 2014


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Mystery plays have come a long way since 1966 when “Wait Until Dark” premiered on Broadway.  The genre has become richer in suspense, tougher to figure out plot twists and turns, character identities are more muddled, and graphic details spice scripts.  So, while “Wait Until Dark” left audiences screaming in fear originally, today the play is a tepid reminder of a genre that is scarier.

So why Arizona Theatre Company decided to revive “Wait Until Dark” is a bigger mystery than the play on stage at the Herberger Theater Center through November 30.  And I’ve seen several stage versions but I couldn’t remember the plot twist that used to make the play spine-tingling.  But by the intermission, the once forgotten plot becomes so obvious so quickly that figuring out the second act is easy that “Wait Until Dark” now is boring.

There’s nothing wrong with the ATC production that has been eerily staged by David Ira Goldstein using Jeffrey Hatcher’s newly adapted version of Frederick Knott’s original script.  Hatcher moves the play back in time from the ‘60s to the ‘40s.  There’s a spooky apartment set complete with shadowy lighting and period costumes so it has a nice visual look.  And the show is sharply performed by the actors.  But even with all these changes, “Wait Until Dark” remains a bland historic relic from the past.

The plot centers on blind Susan who falls under the manipulative power of several cunning men who want a doll she has that is filled with a valuable treasure.  By moving the play backward in time, some of the play actually makes more sense but so what because it’s still an easy thriller to figure out.

Goldstein’s taunt staging helps as does the excellent acting ensemble headed by Brooke Parks as the wily Susan who is initially perplexed by the guileless men but magically gathers the necessary insight to see through them.  Craig Bockhorn’s too efficient police detective Carlino, Peter Rini’s hollowly sympathetic Mike, and Ted Koch’s wicked Roat all contribute as does Joseph Kremer as Susan’s earnest husband.

Today, even a nicely done “Wait Until Dark” won’t have audiences jumping out of their seats.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: C

Attending “Wait Until Dark” and Friday’s Arizona Opera “Rigoletto” brought a disturbing new reality to attending performing arts events in downtown Phoenix.  Downtown street parking costs until 10 p.m. and few street parking spots allow parking longer than two hours.  If attending a downtown arts event, you must park for a ridiculous $12 in the parking garage across from the theaters.  Obviously, Phoenix has it in for downtown performing arts events because other local theaters have free parking close by.