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Wait Until Dark–Terror of the unknown and terror of the obvious

July 1, 1993

Wait Until Dark–Terror of the unknown and terror of the obvious

By Edith McCauley

By Edith McCauley

Theater Critic

Three men enter the space shared by a woman and a child seeking a valuable prize. Disparate personalities and death become the center of action and the ingenious strategies devised by the victim lead to a stunning climax. Wait Until Dark, the current production at NAT and Panic Room, the leading box office film starring Jodie Foster, are amazingly similar. At NAT, Charla Mason is Susy Hendrix, whose loss of sight in a recent accident requires her to plan every detail of her life. Living with her husband, photographer Sam, played by Nicky Bertolino, in a Greenwich Village garden apartment, she successfully adapts to her disability.

Two ex-cons, Mike Talman (Richard Raether) and Carlino (Rob Howard) are consummate artists of scam. Harry Roat (C. Michael Wright) seeks them out for a job involving drugs smuggled in from Canada. Sam has unwittingly brought a doll in which the drugs are concealed. Susy becomes their victim. Katie Colleta is Gloria, a neighbor’s child who runs errands. Initially, she seems completely obnoxious, but when a crisis arises, she is Susy’s staunchest ally.

Both Foster in Panic Room and Mason in Wait Until Dark portray seemingly helpless females who use fantastic problem-solving skills. Trapped in a locked room with her sick daughter, Foster can view every movement of the intruders on a television monitor. Hers is the terror of the known. Mason has only her visual memories to help her. Not knowing the identity of the men requires the strategy of planning every future possibility.

Wright’s character represents the plotter who stops at nothing to achieve his end. Raether is the “good” bad guy who mirrors the part played by Forest Whitaker in Panic Room. Their cohorts, intent on the big prize, constantly wrangle over the details, and it is their inherent weaknesses that enable their victims to save themselves.

Mason’s work at NAT includes the role of Allison in Romantic Comedy and Christine in Room Service. Familiar with audiences from her work at the Clock Tower, she is a welcome addition to NAT. She also serves at the Arts Education director for the Rockford Arts Revival Project. A fine actress, the role of Susy gives her the opportunity to display the multiple aspects of her talent. Colleta as Gloria gives a performance equal to any adult on the stage. Her confidence keeps her focused, a difficult task for one so young.

Gail Dartez directs her stellar cast beautifully. The intricate staging involving the final minutes of the play in darkness requires timing and precise movement. The result is an evening of breathtaking suspense. The show runs through May 5th. Call the NAT box office for tickets.

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