By NADINE ANTAILLIA
COCOA BEACH — “Wait until Dark,” a tense thriller currently onstage now at Surfside Playhouse, concerns photographer, Sam Hendrix, who is tricked into bringing a doll concealing a shipment of heroin from Canada into the USA. The play revolves around the plans of the “Bad Guys” to retrieve the doll from Sam’s blind wife, Suzy Hendrix.
While the plots twists may not come as a surprise to those who have seen previous productions of Frederick Knott’s 1966 drama, it is always nice seeing what the different actors and director bring to this production of it.
Becky Behl-Hill was quite lovely as Suzy Hendrix. She was one moment flirty and funny with her husband and the next moment a bit lost and unsure in her world of blindness. It is great fun to watch her character find the strength to deal with the situation as each twist and turn changes what she believes to be true. The final scene of the play is amazing and Becky handles the terror of the situation with skill and I’m sure not a few bruises.
Jack Maloney is simply frightening as the lead bad guy, Harry Roat, who seems to enjoy the pain of others. His final scene in the darkened apartment is wonderfully performed and staged. Stage violence is never easy to make convincing but Becky and Jack pulled out all the stops to give us an exciting performance.
Damon Dennin is wonderful to watch as Mike Talman as he moves from frustrated con man just trying to make a buck to a man who truly cares what happens to Suzy.
Gordon Ringer as Sgt. Carlino adds a nice bit of comedy to the play as the second con man involved in the plan to find the doll. I laughed out loud at some of his bits, especially the sandwich in the pocket. Gordon is a solid performer and always a joy to see on stage.
The rest of the cast was quite nice. Tyler King as Suzy’s young neighbor Gloria gives a lovely performance. She is one moment a total brat and the next, the only person who can help Suzy defeat the bad guys. Matthew Hall as Sam Hendrix doesn’t have much stage time but he does very well with the loving though slightly controlling husband.
Director Janet Rubin casts a wonderful ensemble of actors and creates some great moments in the play. The staging of the fight at the end of the play is masterful.
The set was a little sparse for my tastes. I would have liked to see more of Sam Hendrix’s photography on the walls. I also found the green color of the set a little off putting. The Surfside stage is wide and in other productions I have had problems with this but in this production, every inch of the stage was put to good use. However, from my seat in house left, I was unable to see any of the action that took place at the safe behind the sofa. This may have been a conscious choice on the part of the director but was a bit frustrating as an audience member.
I liked the costumes very much. The orange dress Suzy wore in the first scene helped set a time period in the minds of the audience. The long coat worn by Harry Roat also added that great menacing touch.
There is only one weekend remaining of this production so I hope you will get a chance to see for yourselves this cast and crew.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Wait Until Dark” performs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road, Cocoa Beach. $22 general, $20 senior/military and $17 student. Call 321-783-3127 or visit SurfsidePlayers.com.