If you need a little excitement in your life, or just some good escapist theater, head for Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse. “Wait Until Dark” builds suspense to a crescendo. The thriller by Frederick Knott is directed by Sandy Bosworth and features a strong cast.
As it opens, three ex cons with a common history are searching for a doll loaded with a rich stash of heroin. They have traced it to the basement apartment of Susie and Sam Hendrix.
As they break in and search for the doll, Susie Hendrix comes home. She is blind, and the perfect foil for the three thugs, who cook up a complex plot to find the doll that involves impersonating a number of characters, including the cops — a pretty easy task. They don’t even have to change costumes because Susie can’t see them. Her husband is away on a business trip, making it even easier.
Susie is blind, but she isn’t stupid, and as the plot thickens, her sharpened other senses lead her to become suspicious. She hears one of the men constantly “dusting” fingerprints around the room, and she notes the sound and configuration of the blinds as the men open and close them to relay signals to cohorts outside, and she recognizes the squeak of a shoe that indicates that two of the characters are really one guy.
Cynthia Anthony is amazing as Susie, feeling around the apartment, tripping now and then, never looking down. She is so good at appearing blind that I began to wonder if she had dark contact lenses on to obscure her sight. (I asked her after the show, and she said no.) She grabs audience sympathy immediately, and as she becomes increasingly threatened, suspense builds.
Jacob Shearer plays the bad guy who pretends to be an old friend of Susie’s husband, dropping by to reconnect with him. He’s believable as he gains her trust, even as she becomes suspicious of the other men who make appearances.
Blake Spiller is also good as a young tough who impersonates a police sergeant, and Kasady Riley plays the nastiest villain with gusto, as he threatens Susie’s life in an intense action sequence.
Sharyn Young is Susie’s household helper, Gloria, who comes and goes when the men are out of the building. She gives Gloria, who is “a bit slow,” a sweetly comic personality. And although Gloria is not the sharpest tool in the shed, she does the legwork at the pivotal time when Susie needs it the most. Donn Clarius is husband Sam, briefly seen at the beginning and the end.
The set, designed by Jim Buckley and built by Art Van Rhyn, packs a lot onto the small stage, and the blind Susie makes her way around furniture, a kitchen counter and up and down stairs with familiarity, noting and sometimes falling, when something is moved.
This is a gripping show, an auspicious opening of the Pewter Plough’s 36th season. A sold-out audience on the holiday weekend was enthusiastic.