The Neuse Little Theatre’s latest production is a gripping thriller about a brave blind woman, a truly slimy criminal and a doll stuffed with heroin.
“Wait Until Dark” is a 1960s play that later became a movie starring Audrey Hepburn. The show opens this weekend and is the second in the NLT’s 41st season.
“Wait Until Dark” follows Susy Hendrix (Ashley Jones), a Greenwich Village housewife who was blinded in a car accident about a year before the play takes place. Susy lives with her husband, Sam (Keifer Morris), who pushes her to be independent in spite of her disability.
The audience learns that Sam, a photographer, unknowingly transported a doll full of heroin across the U.S.-Canadian border on his way back from a business trip. The woman who gave Sam the doll told him it was for her sick daughter in the States. When the woman, named Lisa, calls the next day to retrieve the doll, Sam and Susy can’t find it.
The leader of the drug-smuggling operation, Harry Roat Jr. (Dan Ruffino), is furious when he hears his heroin has been misplaced. He murders Lisa and blackmails her petty-criminal associates into helping him get the doll back from the Hendrixes by threatening to frame them for Lisa’s murder.
The play follows the mishaps of Roat and his henchmen, Mike Talmon (Aron “Face” Lee) and Sargent Carlino (Randy Jordan), over a 24-hour period as they attempt to con Susy into giving them the doll without telling her what’s in it.
Director Matt Gore said the show is full of strong and interesting characters. Susy can fend for her herself despite her blindness, which sends a good message to young girls, he said.
“Susy outsmarts three seasoned criminals while having a disability,” he said. “She’s one of the strongest female leads, if you’re talking about modern theater.”
With the help of Gloria (Kaitlyn Zhoroff), an upstairs neighbor who sometimes helps her around the house, Susy figures out that Talmon, Carlino and Roat are trying to pull a fast one on her. She is especially disappointed in Talmon, whom she came to trust because he told her he was an old friend of Sam’s.
Gore said Talmon is one of the play’s more complicated characters. “Mike is a criminal, but also a human being,” he said. “If he had made one or two smarter decisions in his life, he wouldn’t be where he is.”
Roat, on the other hand, is just plain evil, Gore said. “Roat doesn’t view humans as people,” he said. “They are pawns in his game. He thinks, ‘”let’s see if we can trick this woman into handing (the doll) off to us.’ ”
Also in the play are Dakota Carter and John Zhoroff, playing police officers.
The show culminates with a long fight sequence in which Susy destroys all the lights in the apartment so she and Roat will be evenly matched. This scene in the movie version of “Wait Until Dark” ranked 10th on Bravo’s list of “100 Scariest Movie Moments.”
Gore said all of the lights in the theater will go off during the fight scene. He said that might prove too scary for young children.
“It’s the closest thing NLT’s ever done to a horror movie,” he said. “It’s frightening, but that’s the point.”
Ashley Jones, who plays Susy, said playing a blind character has its challenges, especially during the fight sequence. “I’ve done fight choreography before but never as a blind character,” she said.
Jones said audience members can expect to be on the edges of their seats. “It’s a really great script,” she said. “I think the audience is really going to enjoy it – it’s a good thriller.”