Left in the dark

Vertigo Theatre adapts a classic mystery for the stage

AAnna Cummer (wide)Darkness proves to be an ally against evil in the renowned play Wait Until Dark, a part of the BD&P Mystery Theatre Series, which runs from Jan. 21 to Feb. 19 at Vertigo Mystery Theatre in Calgary.

“The show will really impact people on a visceral level,” said Simon Mallett, the director of Wait Until Dark.

Originally written by Frederick Knott, who is also known for Dial M for Murder, Wait Until Dark takes place inside the confines of a New York apartment. 

It is a psychological thriller about a blind housewife who must outmanoeuvre several conmen searching her house for a doll filled with priceless diamonds.

“It’s really about how to turn her potential weakness into a strength,” Mallett said.

The show stars Anna Cummer, Paul Cowling, Michael Tan, Tyrell Crew, Stafford Perry and Emma Ross.

“It’s an all-local team.”

In 1967, Wait Until Dark was adapted into a classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

The version that Mallett is directing was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher in 2013.

Mallett said that, as with most adaptions, playwrights usually set their plays in modern times.

While the original was set in the 1960s, adaptation is set in 1944, around the time the Second World War was wrapping up.

This was purposefully done so the story could reflect the end of the war while also enriching the motivations of the antagonists.

“The spectre of war kind of looms over the play.”

This version is also more sterilized than the original, with diamonds being used as the McGuffin instead of heroin.

The noir tone also makes the situation seem more alien, a means of comfortably distancing the audience.

Even though the play sometimes retreats into fantasy, logic is strictly adhered to and characters refrain from acting like fools.

Mallett said being a director means not only having a good grasp of all the technical elements, but also having an intimate understanding of the story and characters.

“There’s a lot of physical action and small details that need to happen,” Mallet said. “If you think of the show as a wheel, the director is kind of the centre.”

The show incorporates numerous sound effects and music to set the mood. Light is also constantly played with.

Mallet said one effect that was difficult to pull off was when a cigarette set a gum wrapper on fire inside an ashtray.

The trick was to convey chaos without actually losing control.

What separates Wait Until Dark from the average play is its attention to detail.

Take for instance, how the audience is subtly primed whenever feet pass the window of the apartment. And make sure to pay attention to the blinds.

Wait Until Dark manages to be a roller coaster without having to rely on huge set pieces or flashy effects. All it needed was some small touches and good acting.

For show times and ticket information, please visit: www.vertigotheatre.com

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