Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wait Until Dark (Repertory Philippines)

Susy Henderson (Liesl Batucan) is one resourceful woman. In spite of an accident which leaves her blind, she is able to get by even when husband Sam (Arnel Carrion) is not around, relying on her other senses to figure out what to do best in certain circumstances. Even so, she still counts on the help of Gloria (Dani Gana), the girl from upstairs who helps her with random errands such as buying groceries. While they do not always get along, the two form a good team against a trio of con-men searching for heroin hidden in a doll, which is supposedly in Susy’s place. Mike (Joel Trinidad) and Croker (Robbie Guevara) break into the house when Susy comes back unexpectedly. A complex game of pretend then follows as the two guys are joined by Roat (Jamie Wilson), the owner of the said doll who would do whatever it takes to retrieve it, by hook or by crook. How is a blind woman to survive such an ordeal with three men ganging up on her?

Thriller is one genre that you might think to be unsuitable for theater as a medium. Come to think of it, film has the upper hand when it comes to this form of storytelling, thanks to film making techniques involving the crafty use of a camera to startle an audience. In theater, there are no extreme close-ups or swift camera movements. This could only mean that one would have to rely on other factors such as lighting, sound, and a very good set of actors to make everything seem convincing. This is why this onstage adaptation is a joy to watch, simply because it is able to accomplish all that.

The set is just a simple rendition of a portion of an apartment, particularly the living room and the kitchen with doors leading to the rooms and some steps going up to the main door. The set is intricately designed to make it seem as though you are inside the house with them. One very commendable feature, though, would be the windows, which effectively reflect lighting to mimic different times of day. And of course, there is that scene where it is raining, and you just feel the authenticity of the whole setup.

Batucan is one of Philippine theater’s most reliable actresses and she indeed gives justice to the role originally played by Audrey Hepburn in the film version. Unlike Hepburn, though, she has neither luxury of an intimate camera setting nor the possibility for a second take. In fact, for the particular show that I watched, she had a lapel malfunction, but since the show must go on she instead relied on good modulation and volume control for her dialogues to still be audible. Well, kudos to her, a lot of things could go wrong especially when you are doing scenes heavy on physical altercations.

The remaining part of the cast offers solid support, especially the three con-men. The only weird issue is with the guy who plays Roat, and the way he enunciates, which comes off as a bit too rehearsed. In any case, he manages to be scary, in a psychotic kind of way.

While most theater goers prefer boisterous musicals guaranteed to catch attention, Wait Until Dark is a perfect example of how a theater piece could be just arresting despite not having a single flashy song and dance number. The thought of a thriller onstage alone is already enough to raise one’s curiosity, and to have that curiosity satisfied by a good show which triumphs despite the limitations of the medium used is just an added bonus to an already wonderful theater experience.

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