Out go the lights
Wait Until Dark
No matter how you define darkness, there is plenty of it in Brüka Theatre’s Wait Until Dark. The stage lights go out frequently. Bad things happen to good people. Thieves and drug smugglers call the shots. This is not a sunshiny sort of play, although it is a whole lot of fun to watch.
The plot is familiar: An innocent person unknowingly acquires an item of utmost importance to some shady people. The shady characters then try to get their item back, and mayhem ensues. The innocent person is a blind housewife named Susy (Janine Burgener), and the important item is a doll filled with heroin. The problem is, by the time the criminals show up to collect it, Susy has no idea where it is.
Susy is a great character, and Burgener does an excellent job of portraying her transformation from cripple to bad-ass. Although the plot trajectory is somewhat predictable, it is still a delight to watch Susy challenge the con-men at their own game. When she turns her blindness from a liability into an advantage, what could be a contrived plot twist actually feels fresh and entertaining.
There is not a bad performance in this show. Scott Beers deftly conveys the internal struggle of Mike Talman, a career criminal who resembles a decent guy underneath. Since Talman lies, cheats and steals throughout the play, making him a sympathetic character is no mean feat. The success of this role is all about subtlety, and Beers pulls it off perfectly.
Rodney Hurst is delightfully evil as Harry Roat, the leader of the operation. Although Hurst’s performance was strong, this character is at the heart of the play’s biggest believability problem. At the beginning, Roat is established as the worst kind of bad guy, the type who can kill without a second thought and sell out his accomplices. Once he sets his sights on the doll, he puts together a clever but altogether convoluted plot to trick Susy into handing it over. Since Roat has already murdered at least one person over this doll, it’s unclear why he goes to such great lengths to avoid violence.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that the play has the fun of a good con-artist story as well as some scary moments. Even though the audience knows more than Susy does for most of the play, the unfolding of information is still exciting to watch—the technical phrase for this is “dramatic irony.” In the second act, there are some surprises mixed with foreshadowing aplenty. This is one of those tightly written, well-planned scripts where even trivial plot points are relevant to the overall outcome.
If you are able to suspend your disbelief enough to forgive a few implausibilities, Wait Until Dark is a clever, entertaining play that will suck you in. It’s also a good opportunity to see talented actors show off their skills, like they do in the other play currently showing at Brüka, Michael Grimm’s I’m Not Afraid of You, featuring Tom Plunkett as a drug-addicted bigoted loudmouth who somehow manages to be slightly innocent and a touch endearing. Both plays are worth your while, although the latter comes with an "inappropriate for children and the soft-hearted" warning.