A successful handling of "Wait Until Dark" depends on two things--an engaging portrayal of Susy Hendrix, the blind woman snared by deadly circumstance, and consistent direction that keeps the tension escalating.
The Stanton Community Theatre has little trouble with the first of these: As Suzy, Debbie Korkunis provides a convincing characterization of a woman whose handicap leaves her vulnerable but whose inner strength enables her to face the danger that surrounds her.
Unfortunately, John Craig's direction is more sporadic. There are times when this "Wait Until Dark" clicks and the suspense is spontaneous and realistic. But other times it stalls, largely because of problems with the pacing, and the intrigue seems awkwardly manufactured.
Frederick Knott's sturdy drama, made into a 1967 movie and a regular choice for many community theaters, generates interest because of its chilling (if implausible) premise: Blind Susy's survival depends on outwitting three thugs who believe a doll stuffed with heroin has been stashed in her apartment. The play is ripe with plot twists.
Because of its complexity, "Wait Until Dark" requires steady acting to keep everything focused. Besides Korkunis, there are capable performances by Tom Wade, Tony Grande and director Craig as the crooks.
With effective understatement, Wade reveals the sympathetic side of his character, Mike, creating something of a bond between him and Susy. Grande's Carlino is a panicky bumbler whose bravado is not nearly enough for him to handle the mess they all find themselves in.
As Harry Roat, the sociopathic ringleader, Craig provides some unnerving moments. When, for instance, he casually dismisses the murder of an associate, an aura of unmitigated menace (and madness) hangs over the scene.
It's too bad the overall staging doesn't always keep pace with most of the performances. The result is a production that sputters as much as it hums.
'WAIT UNTIL DARK' A Stanton Community Theatre production of Frederick Knott's drama. Directed by John Craig. With Craig, Tom Wade, Tony Grande, Debbie Korkunis, Christopher Wade, Biff Baudisch, Tammy Maloney, Bob Ijames, Don Eberle, Bob Murphy and Bob Shay. Set by Peg Richardson. Plays Friday and Saturday through Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Stanton Cultural Arts Building at 11081 Cedar St., Stanton. Tickets: $5 and $4. (714) 828-0843.