Jeffrey Hatcher's update of Fredrick Knott's classic thriller Wait Until Dark
is unusual. Instead of moving the story closer to the present to give it currency, it's been pushed back in time to the 1940's. The heroin packed inside a doll, and accidentally smuggled into the country by an unsuspecting man and his blind wife has been written out. Now that doll's full of diamonds. And everything feels just a little more Hitchcockian.
It's a smart move framing the manipulative, sometimes belabored script in a way that brings out all its best qualities.
Wait Until Dark
tells the story of a murderous con man and how he and his partners plan to retrieve the doll full of diamonds, and frame an innocent man. The best parts are told in the dark, giving the play's blind heroine, Susy Hendrix, an unanticipated edge.
Theatre Memphis' production isn't perfect, but it's often very good. Director Tracy Zerwig Ford has assembled an able cast. She gets solid performances all around and especially fine turns from Andria Wilson as Hendrix, and Willie Derrick, as a con artist pretending to be one of her husband's old war buddies. Kaitlyn Poindexter is delightfully obnoxious (and deeply sympathetic) as Gloria, the brat who lives upstairs.
The real star of this show, however, is Daniel A. Kopera's stylish scenic design. Jeremy Allen Fisher's lights, are also noteworthy.
Wait Until Dark takes a long time to set up, and the story strains at the edge of credibility. But when things get rolling in the second half, it's just about everything you could want from a mid-20th-Century thriller.