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STAGE REVIEW : Heroine, Production Overcome Problems of ‘Wait Until Dark’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

“Wait Until Dark,” Frederick Knott’s crime drama about a blind woman overcoming her disability and a gang of thugs, has become a staple on small stages.

Hardly a local community theater season goes by without at least one production of the play, first shown in New York’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1966.

Well, it’s back, this time in a quick-paced, capably acted staging at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.

What makes “Wait Until Dark” so durable (it’s also being produced by the Cypress Civic Theatre Guild) are the odds faced by heroine Susy Hendrix (Tiffany Terry). With only her wits to help her, she must decode all the clues that make it clear her life is endangered by a trio of hoods who think she’s hiding a doll of unusual value.

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Susy is unaware of the doll’s importance or its whereabouts, a further disadvantage. When the villains start to draw in their web, she seems like the perfect victim.

The audience loves it when she figures out what’s going down and makes her stand.

Friday’s opening night in Huntington Beach had its snafus--the first minutes were pretty shaky, especially with the acting, the “mood” music was pushy and unintentionally comic, and a couple of props picked fights with the performers--but director Cyndi Mitchell and her cast managed to generate suspense once a balance was achieved.

Terry gave Susy the right combination of spunk, helplessness and ingenuity. It was smart not turning Susy into a super-heroine--she’s a little whiny, and even her victory leaves her a mess--which gives the performance credibility.

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As the gang’s leader--the menacing sicko Harry Roat Jr.--Ken Perkins went a tad over the wall, but he was still frighteningly demented. Geoffrey Draper was effective as “good” hood Mike Talman, and John Rappazzini provided comic relief as Sgt. Carlino.

‘WAIT UNTIL DARK’

A Huntington Beach Playhouse production of Frederick Knott’s drama. Directed by Cyndi Mitchell. With Tiffany Terry, Geoffrey Draper, John Rappazzini, Ken Perkins, Kedric L. Francis, Missy Kay, Kevin O’Loane and Curt Jensen. Set by Martin G. Eckmann. Lighting by Bob Ashby. Sound by Cyndi Mitchell. Plays Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through Feb. 9. Matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Gisler Little Theatre, 21141 Strathmoor Lane. Tickets: $6 to $8. (714) 832-1405.


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