Married to a photographer, Susy Henderson is a London housewife who is blind as the result of an accident. A chain of events leads three criminals (two ex-convicts, and a ruthless killer) to her house when she is alone. The three are searching for a musical doll that contains 20,000 pounds of heroin.
This, in brief, is the bare plot of the play “Wait Until Dark” by Frederick Knott, first staged in 1966. It became even more famous when it was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn in 1967, with the iconic actress earning an Academy Award nomination.
The film was “Americanized,” with the setting transferred from London to New York.
It was also that year that Repertory Philippines (along with the Philippine Educational Theater Association) was founded, and “Wait Until Dark” was one of the plays first presented by Rep. The cast included Leo Martinez and Noel Trinidad.
Thirty years later, Rep under artistic director Baby Barredo has decided to restage the play as the opener of its 2014 season. In the cast are Joel Trinidad, son of Noel, and Lorenz Martinez, son of Leo.
Directed by Miguel Faustmann, “Wait Until Dark” is ongoing weekends at Onstage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City, until Feb. 9. (Review below)
The brilliant cast is headed by Rep’s signature actress Liesl Batucan, who gives one of her finest ever performances as the blind Susy, with Trinidad as the “good-hearted” conman; Robbie Guevara as the nasty one; Arnel Carrion (a last-minute substitute for Jamie Wilson who had suffered a kneecap injury) as the drug lord; Daniella Gana as the bratty Gloria, who comes to the aid of the beleaguered Susy; and Martinez as Susy’s husband Sam, a role unworthy of his talents.
It was a well-directed and well-acted play, with an eerie atmosphere, the suspense building up to the climactic moments which were literally in the dark.
During the first night’s post-performance press conference, Batucan said the character of Susy is different because she was not born blind: “So I used my hands just to keep me grounded. All the other senses became sharper. My instincts became sharper. Miguel (the director) always reminded me that my ears are my eyes.”
Stepping into the big shoes of Audrey Hepburn, Batucan studied and digested the script and came out with her own Susy Henderson.
“Although I loved Audrey Hepburn in the film,” she hastened to add. “She is in a class by herself.”
“It’s the hardest role I have taken,” Trinidad said. “I only got a handle on it two days ago.”
And it was the first straight role for young Gana, who usually appears in musicals. “I have discovered many new things,” she enthused.
Guevara observed that during the rehearsals, the actors kept reminding themselves that “we are here for the heroin.”
English or Filipino?
On the other hand, the heroine, that is, Batucan, who has appeared in several Tanghalang Pilipino plays (“I want to grow as an actress,” she told me once), was asked: Which was easier for her, an English-language play or a Filipino play?
The veteran actress (whose family hails from Cebu) appeared surprised by the unexpected question, which was a departure from the raves heaped upon her by the media persons present that night.
“Language is so important,” she replied. “Theater is about communicating. I’ve been in Repertory for a long time now, so English comes more naturally. Filipino would be a (greater) challenge. I love both English and Filipino plays, and I would like to do more Filipino plays.”