Jan 30, 2014

[Theater] Wait Until Dark (Repertory Philippines)

Since my partner and I had rather enjoyed the experience of having season tickets for Repertory Philippines, this year we decided to invest in getting the new Year Pass option that offers a bundled rate for all five Repertory Philippines production for the year. Spending P2,400 for 5 plays is a pretty sweet deal no matter how you look at things.

The first straight play for the season was Wait Until Dark, which is a play that was also adapted into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn. Admittedly I had never heard of either the play or the movie - it just happened to be part of the bundle.

 I haven't seen too many plays that tried to capture the suspense thriller genre - it's something that we more commonly expect from movies these days. But I can totally appreciate the greater challenge there is in orchestrating the kind of emotions needed for a play that wants to scare its audience. And in this regard I think that Repertory Philippines did a pretty decent job of bringing this show to life and kicking off their 2014 season in a rather grand way.

Synopsis: Wait Until Dark is a play by Fredick Knott that was first performed in 1966. The Repertory Philippines staging was directed by Miguel Faustmann and ran from January 17 - February 19, 2014 at the OnStage Theater at Greenbelt 1.

The play starts with first "Mike" (Joel Trinidad) then "Croker" (Robbie Guevara) entering the presently unoccupied apartment of a photographer named Sam Henderson (Lorenz Martinez). Both had received a message offering easy money if they showed up at the apartment, although there was no name associated with the call. They immediately suspect Lisa, another petty criminal that the two con men worked with previously but are surprised when an stranger calling himself "Roat" (Arnel Carrion) arrives instead.

Roat then details that he has the details of the job meant for them - to locate a missing doll that is believed to be somewhere in the apartment. Since he was unable to locate it on his own, Roat explains that Lisa recommended the two based on their skills as con artists. Their goal is to con the location of the doll out of Sam's wife, Susy (Liesl Batucan), while other arrangements are made to keep Sam out of the house. When Susy suddenly arrives home with the con men still present, it is then revealed that Susy is blind, thus seemingly setting things up splendidly for their little caper.

The set for the play initially felt like a rehash of the forced perspective used in Repertory's staging of The Graduate last year, which is probably where some of the core materials came from. But it was in fact a rather diverse set with a number of different elements that all came into play at one point or another. After all, this was story about a hidden doll and they clearly wanted to make sure that the apartment had quite a number of possible hiding places.

Liesl Batucan made for an interesting Susy and her depiction of a blind housewife was pretty believable. Given her husband to get her to not feel encumbered by her blindness, she spends most of the play walking freely, using her memory of the apartment and subtle foot taps and outstretched arms to find her way around. The bulk of the play's impact on the audience really depended on her portrayal of Susy and she was pretty admirable in this role.

I have mixed feelings about the tandem of Joel Trinidad and Robbie Guevara as the con men. Initially they almost felt like a comedy duo, but they did grow into their various roles in time. They never fully convinced me that they were crooks, but at least hey didn't fall off the edge into the realm of full comedy. Carrion's Roat was decent although rather melodramatic. I suppose that added to the odd comedy vibe of the production when they were on-stage.

Most impressive was Daniella Gana, who portrayed young Gloria in the production. In real life she's only in the tenth grade and already she shows a lot of promise as an actress. She really brought some real spirit and spunk to the role, which is precisely how Glora needed to be. 

On the whole, the play manage to convey the needed suspense well enough - at least when the crooks weren't clowning around on stage. There's some subtle foreshadowing woven into the stage directions and a lot of good theater trickery with the different props forever moving around the room. The big climax of the production was rather nicely done and made sure that the play ended on a high note.

Wait Until Dark was certainly an interesting way for Repertory Philippines to start the year. I figured they wanted to demonstrate their range and show that they could do more than just your typical state productions and to continue to elevate he art form. Given the mixed tone a time, I can only really rate this play as a 3.5 out of 5 though. It's still worth watching, but it won't necessarily amaze you. 

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