No theater, professional, community or school, sets out to do a bad production. The director, production staff, cast and crew work hard for weeks on end to put forth the best product they can. Sometimes, in spite of their best efforts, they fall short of their expectations. Unfortunately, this is the case with the latest production by the Footlighters of Berwyn, WAIT UNTIL DARK.
WAIT UNTIL DARK is a mystery-drama by Frederick Knott, who also wrote DIAL M FOR MURDER. The stories have been copied many times over, and have become classics. The plot for this production consists of a group of would-be thieves who attempt to at first “gaslight” an unsuspecting blind woman in order to steal a doll containing heroin that her husband innocently transported from Canada. Their insidious plot and the woman’s subsequent actions take you through the evening.
The cast consists of Andrew Fallon, Chris Moran and Mark Abplanalp as the three con men/conspirators (Mike Talman, Sgt. Carlino and Harry Roat). It seemed that these gentlemen are more comfortable with comedies than dramas, as there were very few moments when there was a sense of dread or discomfort, and a choreographed scene involving a chair and a camera tripod seemed more Three Stooges-esque than dramatic.
Holly Franciamone plays Susy Hendrix, the blind wife of Sam (Robert Lotz.) Ms. Franciamone seems to have a handle on her character, playing the blind woman without betraying her real-life sight, and delivers her lines more believably than her male counterparts. (Special kudos go to her for working with a broken foot, which she seemed to handle with very little difficulty.) However, she has the distracting habit of waiting for a second after her cue line to deliver her response, which was uncomfortable after a short time.
Abby Pacca plays Gloria, the child of the upstairs neighbors who helps Susy when Sam is away. Miss Pacca is plucky and unafraid, and at ten years old does a credible job. Rounding out the cast are Robert Pacca and John Volk as policemen who come in at the end of the play.
The set for this show is cramped, given the limitations of the Footlighter’s staging area. Given the amount of action on the stage and the number of actors who were trying to maneuver, it may have been prudent to have a few less set pieces, even though I am sure they were following the script guidelines. Lighting was functional, although the director or stage manager was calling cues from the rear of the building as well as carrying on a dialog which was very distracting to the audience.
This production seemed to be terribly under-rehearsed. There were numerous problems with lines, individually by the actors, and collectively as they jumped cues, unsure of when they were supposed to speak. Conversely, there were times where a line was delivered then a couple seconds passed without a response. This dragged the pace to a crawl, which made the play run roughly a half hour too long. A couple extra line rehearsals might clean the line issues up for the rest of the run…it is certainly necessary. In addition, there seemed to be no rhythm to the piece…much of the cast delivered their lines in mostly monotones, and then shouted a line with seemingly no motivation. Instead of building tension, it had the opposite effect.
I wanted to like this show. I enjoy mysteries, and wanted to be captivated by the plot and characters. I could not, and found myself shaking my head in sorrow at what I was watching. I hope the production staff can clean up some of these issues for the rest of the run. Right now, it’s a show in need of more time.
WAIT UNTIL DARK
Mystery/Drama by Frederick Knott
Directed by Carl Lotz
October 21-November 5, 2011
58 Main Avenue