There's nothing like watching a thriller in the midst of a dark, snowy winter. When it's live theater, a good thriller has the capacity to make the audience literally jump out of their seats.
Fasten your seat belts, then, because Ketchum theater impresario Kathy Wygle is betting on a jumpy response to nexStage Theatre's new production of the thriller "Wait Until Dark" by Frederick Knott, who also penned "Dial M for Murder."
The Broadway production, directed by Arthur Penn, opened on Feb. 2, 1966 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The cast included Lee Remick, Robert Duvall and Mitchell Ryan. Remick was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress. It also played London's West End, and was revived on Broadway in 1998. In 1967, a film adaptation was made starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Audrey Hepburn, who was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Zimbalist was also nominated for a Globe. The cable network, Bravo, ranked the movie 10th on its 100 Scariest Movie Moments for its riveting climax.
"It's one of the most produced plays in the country," said Keith Moore, who plays one of the villains. "It's that much fun."
Patsy Wygle plays Susy Hendrix, a recently blinded Greenwich Village woman whose apartment is invaded by three men pretending to be friends with her husband.
In fact, they are searching for heroin in a doll her husband unwittingly brought home from Canada. The trio tries to convince Susy that her spouse is implicated in the crime and the only way to protect him is to surrender the doll.
A great psychological thriller with a twist: The audience knows exactly what's happening but the heroine has to figure it out on her own. There's no explicit violence, though the underlying current of foreboding and suspense permeates the entire show.
"NexStage doesn't do many productions," said Kathy Wygle, founder of Laughing Stock Theatre Company. "We do Shakespeare (in the summer) and 'A Christmas Carol.' This is kind of a big deal for us to try. We wanted to do a thriller and the Presidents birthday week was very enticing.
"We have three equity actors (Moore, Patsy Wygle and Jamey Reynolds, who plays another villain), but the main intricacies are the technical aspects with lighting. The whole place has to be a blackout after Susy turns off the lights to even the playing field."
Also appearing in the play are young valley thespians Tara Burchmore and Zoey McClain, who will alternate nights to play Gloria, the little girl from upstairs.
Dean Cerutti plays another of the bag guys and Ben Shepps plays Susy's husband, Sam Hendrix.
"I have to say it's a real ensemble," Patsy Wygle said. "There are only five of us, which is really nice coming out of 'A Christmas Carol' with its cast of thousands.
"We wanted to do a thriller or a farce. We went to the board with a budget and idea and ran it by them and they said run with it. It's pretty cool. But it's a challenge. What's fun is the character. She turns her blindness into an asset. She's so strong it becomes not about a blind lady. As an actor it's one of the most physically challenging roles to play. I've done characters with handicaps but this is particularly hard."
An added bit of entertainment value is the presence, in the roles of policemen, of Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunther and Lt. Steve England. No doubt they will add considerable expertise to their challenging roles.
What: "Wait Until Dark"
When: 7 p.m. Champagne Opening on Friday, Feb. 8., Saturday, Feb. 9, and Sunday, Feb. 10. Thursday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 17.
Where: nexStage Theatre, Main Street, Ketchum
Tickets: $20 nightly. On Sunday, Feb. 10, $10. Call 726-4tks or come by the theater at 120 Main St. during business hours.