by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Hello Darkness, my old friend…”
In Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark, darkness is an obstacle and a liability for Susy Hendrix (Alyssa Benitez), but it becomes her best defense. Share the terror at the Selma Arts Center through May 26.
Recently blinded in an accident and more recently married to Sam (Rodolfo Robles Cruz), a photographer living in a New York City basement walk-down, the couple recently came into possession of a sought-after doll. Three men (Roat-Chase Stubblefield, Mike Talman-Joseph Ham, Carlino-Anthony teNyenhuis) conspire to scam their way to getting the doll. The only help for Susy is a vindictive little girl named Gloria (Maya Sosa) from an upstairs apartment.
Triggers about violence, knives, fire, and violence to women are not only set off, they are triggered repeatedly. I discovered personal triggers I had forgotten, and nearly crushed my wife’s hand and arm while trying to remain “calm” (It didn’t really work.).
Susy is self-reliant, determined to be a person instead of a blind person. Alyssa shows this in the movements of a person who has almost memorized a new environment and developed methods for retaining needed information. Her strong features show resolution and help us feel her horror as she realizes the danger that surrounds her. Rodolfo is solid and supportive, trying to give his wife the space to be herself without smothering her with the help he wants to give.
Stubblefield has made an image in past plays as a lightweight, comedic leading man, an image he shatters as Roat, the heartless brain manipulating everyone around him on this caper. He’s vile, evil, and unrepentant, and I hope he understands that those are compliments.
Joseph’s Mike Talman is the heart of the outfit, a thief with a conscience, who finds himself repulsed by what he is doing to a woman he sees as handicapped. He develops that internal struggle as the play progresses, making faltering steps toward being a hero.
Anthony as Carlino is the muscle of the trio, pretending to be a tough-talking police detective as part of the scam. He comes off as not as tough as he wants to be, always a step behind his partners, and he has an odd resemblance to Derek Hough from several dancing TV shows.
Maya has strong performing abilities (shown as Esmerelda in CMT’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Here she stops just this side of The Bad Seed, displaying gumption and the ability to be part of the counterplot.
Juan Luis Guzmán directed this experiment in terror, with Ruth Griffin providing movement design (how to move in the dark when you can really see someone), adding to that uncomfortable feeling telling you that you shouldn’t be watching this because bad things are going to happen…and they do. Erik and Nicolette C. Andersen designed a set that is deliberately dangerous to the unwary. The visual effects of rain seen through a window and projected, unsettling images swing through the unconscious more than through the eyes.
Wait Until Dark is rated PG-13 for intense situations and violence. I wouldn’t take the kiddies. For information and tickets call (559) 891-2238 or go to their website. The Selma Arts Center is located at 1935 High Street in Selma.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Take a friend. After the show, you won’t want to walk alone in the night.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 19 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.