'Wait Until Dark' at Engeman review

Christina Bennett Lind, right, stars in "Wait Until

Christina Bennett Lind, right, stars in "Wait Until Dark" at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport through March 10, 2013. (Credit: Richard T. Dolce)

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If you suffer from achluophobia, "Wait Until Dark" may not be the play for you. On second thought, you just might be the ideal witness for this chiller, now enjoying an occasionally light-free resurrection at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

Yes, I had to look it up, too. Achluophobia: fear of darkness. While many of us experienced such fright in childhood -- What? You never imagined monsters hiding under your bed? -- it's an uncommon grown-up hang-up. None of the onstage characters would be so diagnosed, least of all Susy Hendrix, the blind newlywed who's lived in darkness for a year, following a car accident. Susy's home alone -- her plight brings to mind, in a less comic sense, the movie of that title -- while her photographer husband is away on business. Set in mid-1960s Greenwich Village, before the cellphone era (Frederick Knott's play premiered on Broadway in 1966), Susy is on her own, except for Gloria, the bratty little girl who lives upstairs.

Before we meet Susy, a convincingly pretend-sightless Christina Bennett Lind who has us rooting for her, and her young neighbor (amusing Carly Tamer), we encounter two con artists and a murderer convening in Susy's basement apartment (shabby period set by Jonathan Collins). Harry Roat, presumably an alias, already has committed murder in his vain search for a doll that Susy's husband was given in Montreal to deliver to a hospitalized girl in New York. Both Susy and her husband are unaware that there's heroin stuffed inside the toy. Roat, played with single-minded treachery by Michael Sharon, hires the con men to retrieve the valuable contraband.

For a time, the scheme fools Susy. She believes one of the men, played by a gregarious G.R. Johnson, is an old friend of her husband. The other impersonates a cop (snarky Eric Rolland), ostensibly investigating a murder. A phone booth is involved in the plot, and window blinds are blinked by the conspirators as a signal.

Once Susy is onto them, her best defense is darkness. Her apartment, in pitch black, becomes her home-field advantage.

That's where achluophobia sets in. If you're susceptible, be warned. I've rarely experienced such an intentionally total blackout (lighting and lack thereof by Jill Nagle). Not fearing lights-out, but -- more pertinently -- since I know each plot twist, my spine did not tingle in this well-crafted suspense thriller tautly directed by Alan Souza. But the element of surprise might well give you a shudder or two.

 

WHAT "Wait Until Dark," by Frederick Knott

WHEN | WHERE 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 10, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

INFO $55; engemantheater.com, 631-261-2900

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