Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Hanna's "Dark" on Chilling Side

Cleveland Press January 24, 1967

Minutes before the end of "Wait Until Dark" all sorts of violence erupts on stage There are involuntary shrieks from the audience and more than one hardy soul has straightened up in his seat.

If final impressions are important, this play will be remembered as a first class chiller. For those of us with longer memories, going back to when the curtain went up, it will remain as a two-act play that makes one thankful for the second act.

"Wait Until Dark" is by Frederick Knott who wrote "Dial M for Murder," a mystery that built logically and suspensefully toward a climax. In "Dark," on the other hand, the playwright seems to have thought of a rip-roaing climax first and then added a great deal of material ahead of it hoping for the best.

THE PLAY IS about a blind girl (Shirley Jones) left alone in her Greenwich Village basement apartment when her photographer husband is lured out of town on a phony assignment.

This happens because three evil-type characters have learned that he has unknowingly brought home a heroin-filled doll.

Now they want the doll, so they go through an elaborate routine of trying to con the blind girl -- who doesn't know where it is -- into giving it to them.

If they had simply belted her across the mouth it would have been more realistic but would have shortened the show.

ONE PRETENDS to be an old service buddy of the husband; another, a police sergeant. The third flits in and out in several elaborate disguises, which adds to the theatricalism of the piece but little to any semblance of reason.

One disguise is used just once when only the blind girl is present. Anyway, it is this muddled thinker who has master-minded the plot. This must account for something.

There is some initial shock at the start when the three pasties are introduced but the show slows down as it gets involved with elaborate signals, strange phone calls, double-meaning dialog and frequent entrances and exits.

THE GIRL may be blind but she is not stupid and with her other senses working overtime she soon is onto the plot. Because she is intelligent, it is unbelievable that she would stay when she could run or at least call the police.

But it all works up to an elaborate climax in which the blind girl fights her adversaries in her own element -- darkness.

Shirley Jones is warm and appealing as the blind girl, displaying just enough restrained hysteria to make the part believable.

HARRIS YULIN is almost likable as the sympathetic hood and Val Bisoglio lends some needed comic relief in the part of crook-turned cop. Jack Cassidy as the heavy shows he is adept at character roles, and can be menacing enough to make a career out of playing the heavy.

The direction is good and the play is tightly paced.

"Wait Until Dark" is a satisfactory chiller, but only a fair mystery because of its awkward and elaborate construction. Most mystery fans are willing enough to accept a suspension of realism, but not of logic.