Things That Go Bump in the Night – ACT’s Wait Until Dark

Paul Tourville and Ricci Mann, photo courtesy of ACT

The Attleboro Community Theatre’s first offering of their 63rd season is Frederick Knott’s classic thriller ​Wait Until Dark. ​Movie buffs will recognize the title from the 1967 adaptation, starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin; the stage version debuted in 1966. Knott’s story follows Susy Hendrix, a blind woman who becomes the target of three con artists who are searching for a doll stuffed with heroin, which Susy’s husband Sam unwittingly transported from Canada. Both the Broadway production and the movie were big hits​; ​the script’s ending, which plunged theaters into complete darkness​ at a climactic moment, ​shocked audiences. By now, the twists and turns of Knott’s tightly plotted script have become familiar, but they remain compelling more than 50 years after its premiere.

ACT’s production is straightforward, earnest and energetic: director Paul Nolette and his assistant director, Kelli Tallman, keep the cast on their toes. The unit set, by Nolette and David Blessinger, is a lovingly designed throwback, with a funky mod pattern on the walls and nary an anachronism. Douglas Greene takes on the script’s challenging lighting design, while Curtis Brown does sound. The standout is Paul Tourville, who plays the sociopathic chameleon Harry Roat. Creating a sense of genuine menace on a stage is challenging — Quentin Tarantino famously earned laughs instead of gasps for his take on the same character in a 1998 Boston revival. Rather than ape Arkin’s sharp, brooding portrayal, Tourville’s Roat is wry and almost playful, with a Truman Capote lilt to his voice, and an easy, relaxed manner. Ricci Mann takes on the difficult part of Susy with energy and verve. Mark Gallagher is convincing as her husband, Sam, and gives a notable performance in spite of his lack of stage time. Verity Preston is charming and funny as Gloria, the troublesome child who lives next door.

Jay Dilisio and Jim Cannizzarro are fun as the bumbling cons, Mike and Carlino, who gaslight Susy, but find she is more formidable than they expected. Connor Hanrahan and Kyle Stephens round out the cast as the policemen. Nolette’s cast pulls off some difficult moments, particularly the fight choreography near the end. We don’t get the pitch-black, hold-your-breath moment in the same way ’60s movie audiences did, but Tourville and Mann pull off the play’s tricky final sequence well.

Attleboro Community Theatre presents Wait Until Dark​ through Oct 13. 71 North Main Street in Attleboro. For tickets, attleborocommunitytheatre.com

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