Wait Until Dark, running at the Boise Little Theater through October 29, is a perfect show for Halloween. It has no witches, goblins or monsters, but there is plenty of scary excitement and more suspense than any fake haunted house could ever conjure up.
Director Nancy Shankweiler has selected a terrific cast and demonstrates a sure feel for pacing as the story of three crooks and a blind woman evolves and builds to a breathtaking dramatic conclusion. The Greenwich Village basement apartment where the action takes place, designed and built by Jim Anderson, is a clever jewel of a set, with windows in the upper wall that show people walking by to get to the stairs that go down to the basement.
Deanna Hamilton plays the blind Suzy Hendrix with just the right combination of charm and feisty independence, endearing her to the audience and making the events to come seem possible. Hamilton is never distracted from her blind persona and is very convincing as she bumps into misplaced chairs and gropes for dropped items. She has the focused attitude of the sightless who must rely on their other faculties to deal with the world. But Suzy finds herself in a frightening and unusual situation and places her trust in the wrong person.
Two ex-cons have been directed to Suzy's home to help the sinister Harry Roat (Jim Lambert) find a drug-filled doll worth a fortune. Joseph Wright and Mitch Barker play the former convicts, who reluctantly take on the job. During the course of their search for the doll, they insinuate themselves into Suzy's confidence, playing a former friend of her husband and a policeman. Wright, as the slim and nervous Mike Talman, has an intriguing ability to make simple statements sound ominous. He successfully deceives Suzy by defending her against the aggressive questioning of Sergeant Carlino (Barker).
With each appearance, Lambert's character deepens his frightening urgency to obtain the doll and reveals an insane, sadistic nature. In his final confrontation with Suzy, his deep, menacing voice raises the terrifying situation so sharply that you almost forget to breathe. As darkness descends and Suzy turns off the apartment lights to level the playing field, the tension is palpable in the silent audience, with nothing to distract from the violence threatening the woman.
Jamie Funk does a great job as Gloria, the young neighbor girl, who at first seems to be a strange, sneaky and unpleasant youngster. But as she gets caught up in the mysterious goings on in Suzy's apartment, she turns out to be a clever conspirator and a great assistance to the trapped blind woman. Kevin Butler has the thankless role of Sam Hendrix, the husband who is missing through most of the play.
The cast is skillful at building the atmosphere of fear, so some plot problems are scarcely noticable during the play. You're just glad when you go home that you can turn on the lights and chase away the ugly thoughts and fears lurking in the dark.
Oct. 14-29, Boise Little Theater, 342-5104 or www.boiselittletheater.com.