The Fulton’s Studio series has got a humdinger in “Wait Until Dark,” which opened Thursday night,
If you’ve never seen the show or the popular 1967 movie, I predict you will get plenty of scares and creepy aha moments in this production.
And even if you are familiar with the story, as I am, this production of “Wait Until Dark” is still a fun and at times scary show.
The first-rate cast is a big reason why, and Andrew Kindig’s solid direction and wonderful pacing is another.
And the story itself is solidly built, with excellent payoffs and surprises along the way.
The play, by Frederick Knott, was a Broadway hit in 1966. The adaptation the Fulton is using was written by Jeffrey Hatcher in 2013 and is set in 1944.
It has a few twists and turns that are different from the original, like the time frame, but the adaptation doesn’t stray far.
And what a good story it is.
Susan Hendrix (Katherine Fried) is a woman who lost her eyesight a year and a half ago. Her husband, Sam (Anson H. Woodin), is a photographer who travels a lot.
As the play opens, a man walks into the couple’s Greenwich Village basement apartment and looks around. The lights are dim. Another man arrives and the two explain in a clever exposition that they are looking for a doll, which their cohort, Lisa, put into Sam’s bag at the train station.
It’s clear that Harry Roat (Zack Calhoon) is the leader of the gang and Sgt. Carlino (Peter Bisgaier) is scared of him.
The doll, which has something valuable sewn inside, can’t be found.
Roat doesn’t believe it. He murdered Lisa over it and dumped her body down the block. He and Carlino (an actual former cop who went to jail) work out an elaborate plan to get the doll.
They send Sam off the next day on an extended photo assignment that will take all day — it’s fake, of course. Then they begin to make Susan believe that Lisa and Sam were having an affair and Sam could have killed her.
They also think because Susan is blind, they have the upper hand. Wrong.
Fried does a great job of creating a strong, determined woman who is still frustrated and angry. You’ll believe she cannot see and can figure out the things she does.
Mike (Kevin Earley), an old Marine friend of Sam, stops by when Sam isn’t there.
He and Susan have a rapport, and when Roat and Carlino kick their plan into action, Susan depends on him to help her out.
The other character in the show is Gloria (Carly Evans), a young girl who lives upstairs and helps Susan out with groceries and other things. The two have a love/hate relationship, and together they offers some comic relief as well as some pretty scary moments.
The play sets all the clues up quite well. Susan may be blind, but her other senses work overtime.
It was eerie how the audience catches on to certain things the same time Susan does and even eerier when the audience is a few steps ahead.
Calhoon makes Roat utterly nasty in a fun but scary way, and Earley gives Mike an easy charm. Bisgaier lays it on a little thick, and Woodin has the unenviable role of being a bit of a patronizing husband.
But the cast clicks, and Kindig moves the action along nicely.
Lighting design is, of course, essential, and Mary Lana Rice does a terrific job of setting moods and heightening fears.
The set, designed by William James Mohney, is pretty standard, but serves its purpose.
And considering how important sound is to Susan as she gathers clues, kudos to sound designer Matthew Moran.
My biggest issue? As much as I loved the intimacy of the studio theater, the seats were especially tightly packed this time. I felt like a sardine and I was at the end of the row.