"Wait" Brings Chilling Thrills

Theresa Finamore plays the blind Suzy as a woman on the edge, her cool and rational moments giving way to stark terror, which she enacts superbly. This is an actress’ dream role and Finamore delivers a starkly radiant performance....


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Few plays are as challenging artistically and technically as Frederick Knott’s suspense drama “Wait Until Dark,” and when both of these elements are functioning at full tilt, the result can be a riveting thrill ride.


At the Newport Theater Arts Center, the performances and the intricate details of setting, lighting, properties and sound throb with immediacy, despite the fact that this play is 45 years old. But no matter how many times you’ve seen it on stage or screen, its climax still is calculated to blast you out of your seat.

Under the practiced directorial hand of Terri Miller Schmidt, the Newport production is perhaps the most accomplished local community theater effort of the year. Sure, you know what’s coming, but you still relish the visceral experience.

“Wait Until Dark” depicts a 30-ish blind woman fending off murderous thieves searching for a heroin-laced doll that her husband unwittingly allowed himself to carry through Canadian customs. One murder has been committed in its quest, and there will be others before the final fadeout.

Suzy Hendrix is sightless, but fearless — up to a point — as she devises a plan to level the playing field between herself and the enemy forces. It’s Knott’s final confrontation that made early audiences scream and still induces them to clutch the arms of their seats.

At Newport, Theresa Finamore plays the blind Suzy as a woman on the edge, her cool and rational moments giving way to stark terror, which she enacts superbly. This is an actress’ dream role and Finamore delivers a starkly radiant performance.


As Roat, the leader of the larcenous threesome, Michael Keeney is a fearsome presence, wielding a subtle yet persistent authority through much of the play until challenged to unleash his animalistic fervor at the climax. There’s nary a false note in this richly developed portrayal.

Geoffrey Varga as Talman, the thug with a heart, registers a contrasting yet still desperate characterization. He’s avaricious but empathetic, a fine, natural interpretation. Stephen Saatjian as Carlino, the third member of the shady trio, shuns subtlety to cast a menacing shadow over the room. Gruff and bullish, he typifies the dangerous street thug skillfully.

The role of Gloria, the bratty young girl who helps Suzy on her perilous mission, is double-cast, with Sigal Willner impressing on opening night. She shares the role with Chloe Horner, and the pair alternate in the part.

Christopher Utley, in his book-ending role of Suzy’s photographer husband, is quite effective as a loving but demanding mate. Shane Cervantes and David Ianacone complete the cast as policemen.

Technically, the Newport production is ideal. Andrew Otero’s basement apartment setting reeks of authenticity, while Mitch Atkins’ lighting and Brian Page’s sound effects are equally well chosen.

“Wait Until Dark” doesn’t come around that often and when it does, it’s almost a new experience. This revival is a dynamic one at the Newport Theater Arts Center.

If You Go 

What: “Wait Until Dark”

Where: Newport Theater Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays until Dec. 13

Cost: $15

Call: (949) 631-0288

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot. His reviews appear Fridays.

Posted: Wednesday - December 30, 2009 at 12:55 PM
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