MLT’s ‘Wait Until Dark’ well worth the effort
It’s taken a colossal effort on the part of everyone involved with McKeesport Little Theater’s production of “Wait Until Dark” to pull off such a top-rate show.
While those involved with theater always at least acknowledge that those behind the scenes are equally as important as the actors on stage, this is one production where that especially is true.
“Wait Until Dark” is a thriller about a blind woman, a missing doll and some con men trying to retrieve the missing musical toy to recover drugs hidden inside.
Written by Frederick Knott, it opened on Broadway in 1965 and in 1967 was made into what’s now considered a classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn as the blind woman Susy Hendrix.
What can be done in a movie, with a scene shot over and over to get it just perfect, is one thing. Making that work in live theater is quite another.
One of the first challenges was the MLT set. On the small, curtainless stage, there usually are two areas available for entrances and exits. With the play set in a basement apartment and various people entering and exiting multiple times, stairs had to be constructed and the customary second entry/exit point blocked off entirely to make a windowed wall that is key to the spellbinder.
Kudos to designer Mark Fey and builder Lee Davis for making the setting plausible in the first place.
Director Chuck Penick credited proper casting with being so essential to this play, and his pre-show praise of his actors was well-deserved.
It wasn’t until after Sunday’s opening-weekend performance, in a face-to-face meeting with MLT and Pittsburgh newcomer Ivy Steinberg, that it really could be ascertained that she is not, indeed, blind.
Knowing she will have to come out of every performance at least a little bumped and bruised by necessity, Steinberg pulls off her role stunningly, not making eye contact with anyone or anything nor reacting as a sighted person would to what is going on around her. She stumbles over furniture and other objects moved, thrown or carefully placed to impede her movements.
Steinberg brings a delightful innocence to the role of the young wife, convincingly hiding the keen mind and observant nature that enable her to overcome the limits of someone who has only recently lost her vision and the terrifying experience in connection with the doll.
Although his part isn’t large in this show, MLT familiar Paul Schober makes for a reassuring presence as Susy’s husband Sam Hendrix. He tries to encourage her independence while making sure someone’s usually around when she needs it, such as the neighbor girl Gloria, portrayed by Woodland Hills 11th grader Rebecca Love.
Although it is her first time on the MLT stage, Love brings a wealth of performing experience through appearances at Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Gemini Children’s Theatre and Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s apprentice program.
As many teens can be in real life, Love’s Gloria is moody, temperamental and often annoyed with Susy, but shows she can buckle down and be helpful and responsible when the chips are down.
The three actors who portray the thugs/con men are quite believable in their roles. Richard Cavalucci is Carlino, aka Sgt. Carlino, a small-time thug who gets roped into the larger bad scene with buddy Jack Davis as Mike Talman. Talman’s in trouble with a loan shark and needs to earn some easy money in a big hurry. The two make us believe they could be all-around good guys, if circumstances were different.
Harry J. Roth as Harry Roat is another matter. While he appears to be a sweet-talker, there’s almost no doubt from the beginning that he is rotten and psychotic. Roth nicely stays in character, showing Susy no compassion.
Judy Maricevic’s role as lights and sound operator is crucial throughout, making sure the lighting and noise match the action onstage, including a complicated fuse replacement sequence.
During the final 13 minutes of the play, the interior of the theater is blacked out to the legal reduced lighting level and no one is allowed to enter or exit. Characters in the play also smoke.
“Wait Until Dark” continues weekends through Nov. 21, with 8 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays, plus 2 o’clock Sunday matinees. Tickets are available at www.mckeesportlittletheater.com or by calling the box office at 412-673-1100.