Greenwood Little Theatre to present 1960s thriller

Get ready for thrills and chills during Greenwood Little Theatre’s upcoming production of “Wait Until Dark,” a 1960s noir tale of suspense. 

Will Perkins will make his directorial debut at Greenwood Little Theatre with the play.

Director, Will Perkins

Director, Will Perkins

“We’ve been working really hard to put on a good show for people, and I think they are going to really enjoy it,” said Perkins.

Perkins began acting at the Little Theatre in 1999. Some of his stage credits include Prince Dauntless in “Once Upon a Mattress,” Trent Conway in “Six Degrees of Separation,” Richard Hannay in “Vintage Hitchcock,” The Baker in “Into The Woods” and Leo Bloom in “The Producers.” He has also designed many of the sets of Greenwood Little Theatre shows in the past four years.

Perkins said the most challenging aspect of directing rather than acting is all the organizing and scheduling a director must do.

“With this, it’s coordinating everything,” he said. “I’ve had the fortune over the past years to be directed by some amazing people in this town who’ve got a long history with GLT, and I learned a lot from them by being directed by them.”

The “Wait Until Dark” cast has also helped Perkins to make a smooth transition to the director’s chair.

“It’s such a diverse group that it really made it easy for me, because everyone seemed to really click,” said Perkins. “With this group, we’ve got a lot of theater veterans in the show, we’ve got a lot of people who have not been in a play and those who have gone years and years since their last appearance on the stage.”

“Wait Until Dark” was written by Frederick Knott and was first performed on Broadway in 1966.

The cast included Lee Remick, Robert Duvall and Mitchell Ryan. Remick was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

A popular film version was released in 1967 starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. Hepburn was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.

The film also ranked 10th on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for its climactic scene.

“It is a psychological horror story, because it feeds off of weaknesses of people, and perceived weaknesses especially. It’s difficult to watch it without placing yourself in that person’s situation.”

Perkins said that the play does differ from the movie.

“Anyone who’s seen the Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin movie will be getting a different experience, because a lot of things were added to the film. The play is a more streamlined and straightforward adaptation.”

GLT’s production of “Wait Until Dark” will keep with the play’s original 1960s setting.

“It’s a suspenseful thriller in the most old-fashioned sense of the phrase,” he said “It’s not just a period piece out of a novelty. It is because that’s the period that created those wonderful noir thrillers.”

The play features Suzy Hendrix (Elaine Tharpe), who has been blind for about a year, and her husband Sam Hendrix (Bob Draper), who’s a photographer.

Suzy and Sam live in a basement-level apartment in Greenwich Village. Sam has recently returned from a trip to Canada, where he met a woman named Lisa who asked for a favor. She requests that Sam take a baby doll with him to New York City, where she will pick it up.

Sam agrees, but unbeknownst to him, Lisa is a criminal. and the doll is filled with heroin. Lisa gets in contact with a few other con men, because she needs to get the doll.

“Because of Suzy’s blindness, the con men think it is going to be very easy to pull one over on her,” said Perkins.

Perkins said that the first act of “Wait Until Dark” builds the story, and the second act is “like a locomotive crashing into a brick wall.”

“Everything the audience already knows is going to be put into full motion,” he said.

Toward the end of the second act, two actors will perform in a scene in complete darkness.

“The audience is going to hone in on the sounds, and it’s going to place the audience in Suzy’s position of being blind,” said Perkins. “You just have to listen to everything that’s happening. It really is chilling. I’ve read the script, and the cast has read the script, and we still get chills every single time we run that scene. I think the audience is really going to enjoy it.”

The two actors who will be performing in that scene have had to get comfortable on the stage in complete darkness.

“One of them is supposed to know her way around; the other one is not,” said Perkins. “So it comes across pretty well, because both in reality have to know their way around, but one of them has to pretend that he can’t, so it’s been really fun. Every single time, it just gives you goosebumps.”

Perkins said repetition has been the key to perfecting the scene.

Tharpe, one of the actors performing in that scene, has had to really learn her way around the stage without sight to perform believably as a blind woman.

“Elaine has put a lot of effort and thought into developing her character, Suzy,” said Perkins. “She’s actually been practicing in her house in the evenings by turning off all the lights and walking around her own house. ... She, of course, can see, but she’s not using her eyes really at all. She keeps them open, but she’s not using her eyes.”

Perkins said what he loves most about “Wait Until Dark” is the opportunity is gives the audience members to put themselves into a character’s mindset.

“More than anything, I hope the audience will leave realizing that personal limitation or disabilities have no bearing on someone’s capability to take care of themselves,” he said.

“Wait Until Dark” contains content that is not suitable for children.

To purchase tickets or season memberships or make seat reservations, visit www.greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call 947-1075. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for those under 21.

Alicia Dallas