Seeing is believing

Play gives new reason to be afraid of the dark

Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2005


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  Susy Hendrix, played by Ramona Baker, reacts in fear to Harry Roat, played by Mike Druce, in "Wait Until Dark." The play opens today. Photo by Jenny Neyman

Susy Hendrix, played by Ramona Baker, returns home while a con man, played by Chris Jenness, hides behind the door, hoping Susy's blindness means he won't be discovered.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Anyone who's been startled by things going bump in the night has some idea of what Susy Hendrix is going through. Blinded in an accident, she's adjusting to life without her sight but still gets tense when she hears unidentified sounds.

The difference is, while the creaks and thumps most people jump at are innocuous, for Susy, it could mean someone is about to kill her.

In "Wait Until Dark," a play by Frederick Knott performed by Triumvirate Theatre, Susy must match wits with three men who aren't what they pretend to be.

Susy's husband, Sam, comes home with a doll he was asked to deliver by a stranger he met in an airport. Little do they know it's filled with drugs.

When the doll disappears before delivery can be made, its owner, Harry Roat, is convinced it's hidden somewhere in the apartment and enlists the help of two con men to get it back. With Sam distracted away from the apartment, the con men try to get an at first unsuspecting Susy to help them find it by posing as Mike Talman, a friend of Sam's, and Sgt. Carlino with the police department.

If Carlino and Talman can't get the doll from Susy through deception, Roat has made it clear he will do whatever else it takes to get it back. It's up to Susy to see through their plot and save herself, even though she can't see who she's dealing with.


Susy Hendrix, played by Ramona Baker, reacts in fear to Harry Roat, played by Mike Druce, in "Wait Until Dark." The play opens today.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Triumvirate director Joe Rizzo said the play's tension builds throughout the roughly two-hour-long show.

"To start with, the script is excellent," he said. "As far as creating that suspense, a lot of that is built in. You can do a lot of that subtly when directing it by keeping your actors focused on the plot itself."

Much of the tension comes from the audience imagining what it's like for Susy to slowly become aware of what danger she's in, yet not be able to see whether the people threatening her are across the room or right behind her.

"The suspense is in will Susy find out that these guys are out to hurt her before it's too late?" Rizzo said. "We can see her figuring this out as she goes along. The question is, will she figure this out in time."

To create tension, it is key for the actress playing Susy, Ramona Baker, to be convincing at being blind. Rizzo said that hasn't been a problem.

"I've been really impressed with how well Ramona has done — this ability of hers to be able to appear like she's blind and to be able to remember that throughout the whole play. When you can see you do all these things naturally. You know the table's there so you don't run into it. And in a play like this, people watch for things like that."

The actors playing Carlino, Talman and Route have a tough assignment, as well.

"This can be a difficult play for actors to do because they're essentially playing somebody playing somebody else," Rizzo said. "They have to think about how they're supposed to be portraying themselves to Susy and who they really are in this plot."

Jamie Nelson, a veteran of several Kenai Performers productions, plays Sgt. Carlino.

"Jamie Nelson is an old hand at doing character acting," Rizzo said.

Mike Talman is played by Chris Jenness, who's biggest challenge has been portraying a believable bad guy.

"The harder thing has been trying to get Chris Jenness to be menacing because he is such a nice guy," Rizzo said. "That's a difficult acting job for Chris — the guy who was most likely not to get in trouble after graduation."

The unscrupulous Roat is played by longtime Soldotna High School drama director Mike Druce.

"Of course, Michael Druce is truly amazing, he's an amazing actor," Rizzo said. "It's really been very fun to get him on stage."

Other characters are Susy's husband, Sam Hendrix, played by Damon Bowen; Gloria the neighbor girl, played by Shaylee Rizzo; and a police officer, played by Rick Scott.

Aside from acting, "Wait Until Dark" has posed challenges in how detail-oriented the show is.

"I've never seen a play with so many props in it in my life," Rizzo said. "There's a million things to keep track of."

Those details become even harder to keep track of in the dark, since the climax of the last scene is done in pitch black when Susy turns the tables on her attackers by turning the lights off.

"The audience can't see anything, and, of course, neither can the actors," Rizzo said.

"Wait Until Dark" will be performed at 8:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and next week on Aug. 4, 5 and 6 at Soldotna High School Auditorium.

Tickets are $10 at the door. There is limited seating, so people should come early to get a seat. The play is not recommended for children.

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