With the eeriness of Halloween still lingering, how appropriate that the Crighton Players would complement the season with the current spooky production of Frederick Knott‘s “Wait Until Dark,” directed by Joe Viser. It was long ago in 1966, when, as a student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, I had the opportunity to see the play’s original Broadway production starring Lee Remick, and co-starring a young actor who would become best known for later work in films: Robert Duvall. If you enjoy a good mystery, there is a dark adventure awaiting you with final performances this weekend at Conroe’s shiny new Owen Theatre.
The action plays out on a single meticulous set (designer Wes Bush, lighting, Bill Torgan) that nicely captures the atmosphere of the modest 1960’s Greenwich Village apartment belonging to Sam and Suzy Hendrix (Joey Lamont and Carol Lamont). The mysterious mood is enhanced throughout by ghostly musical interludes that would be perfect for a haunted house (Sound designer, Jim Tatum). As the play opens, two ex-cons (Brian Heaton as Mike, and the show’s set designer, Wes Bush, as Carlino) break into the empty apartment. It seems they are searching for a child’s doll, a doll with hidden contents worth a quarter-million dollars. A third conspirator arrives in the person of Harry, ominously played in dark sunglasses by Allen Dorris. Suzy, by the way, is blind, and as she arrives home and opens the door to the apartment, she is unaware that she has gangster-style company. Thus begins a complex con-game designed to fool Suzy into producing the much sought after doll. Along the way we meet little Gloria (Talia Siple), the young girl who lives upstairs. Does she have the doll? Does she know where it is? Miss Siple livens things up with a feisty performance that runs the gamut from caring, helpful neighbor to spoiled little hellion.
With Ms. Lamont’s focused and solid performance capturing the difficulties of blindness, it is fun to watch the evolution of Suzy’s growing suspicions as she searches for the truth about what these men are up to. There were a few points however, when Suzy’s fearful whimpering seemed endless. As for the gangster trio, with the tension building, the actors did a fine job of making the audience members hope that they are never alone in a house with the likes of these thugs. Mr. Lamont as Sam, along with Jeff Elkins and Charles Williams as policemen, rounded out the capable cast.
There were a few plotlines that seemed far-fetched, like lighting matches in a room full of gas fumes, or sending a little girl to find herself a cab and run an errand at the Port Authority Bus Terminal; but overall, “Wait Until Dark” is a nice way to get one’s first look at the new Owen Theatre. Will we soon be calling Conroe’s downtown the Theatre District?
Note: The Crighton Players have dedicated this, their opening production at the Owen, to the memory of their “dear friend and great actress, Debbie Reed.”
Wait Until Dark will be performed this Friday and Saturday evenings at 8p.m. For tickets and information call 936-539-4090 or visit the website at: www.crightonplayers.org.