Bowie Community Theatre’s Wait Until Dark
Sixties suspense still chills
By Jim Reiter
Wait Until Dark originated on Broadway in 1966, and the following year was released as a movie whose ending is ranked 10th on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Both versions were notable: the play for running 373 performances and earning Lee Remick a Tony nomination; the movie for a long run (and several reviews rating it better than the stage production) and for earning Audrey Hepburn an Oscar nomination.
The story: Susy, a blind housewife in Greenwich Village, unknowingly finds herself in the middle of a criminal conspiracy after her husband returns from Canada with a doll whose owner is found dead. Turns out, the doll is filled with heroin, and three con men (Anthony Cosgrove, Randy Lindsay, and Andrew Rappa) target Susy in her apartment as they try to uncover the doll’s whereabouts. They don’t know that Gloria (Samantha Clark), a young neighbor who helps Susy out with chores, has taken the doll, upset that it wasn’t meant as a gift to her.
Director Ilene Chalmers has staged the Bowie Community Theater’s production well, especially the climactic ending in the near dark. Chalmers also had the good instincts to cast two inexperienced youngsters who, under her guidance, turn in impressive performances in their community theater debuts: Clark, a fourth grader, gives Gloria a confident precociousness that is cute and funny at first but turns downright touching later on. Cosgrove, a teenager, plays Mike the con man who pretends to be an old friend of Susy’s husband, with a gentleness that belies his youth but works for the role — after all, he is trying to ingratiate himself in order to help his associates find the doll. Both command the stage with the confidence of veterans.
As his fellow bad guys, Rappa is effective as the menacing Roat, organizer of the crime, and while Lindsay starts off overplaying the comedy, he settles in quite well as Sgt. Carlino, whom Susy trusts before realizing he’s not who he says he is.
But it is, of course, Susy around whom the plot and the machinations revolve, and Gemma Davimes gets everything right. From the technical aspects of appearing blind to the dramatic innocence of a 1960s housewife, and then to the inner calculations of a woman trying to survive the violence around her, Davimes offers up a captivating performance.
After a relatively slow and expository first act—more the fault of the script than the production—the second act picks up, leading us, along with Susy and Gloria, into the suspenseful climax that is the highlight of the production. It’s a climax that works for two reasons: It is well staged, and we care about—in fact, we are worried for—Susy and Gloria. That doesn’t happen unless we are completely invested in the well-being of these two characters. We are, thanks to the engrossing performances of Davimes and Clark.
About two hours and 10 minutes including one intermission; Wait Until Dark runs FSaSu through Oct. 30. Tickets $22 (plus $3 processing fee), $17 for seniors (62+) and students. Call 301-805-0219 or visit www.BCTheatre.com.