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Gerald Carpenter: Ojai Urges Theatergoers to ‘Wait Until Dark’

The thriller will run through October at the Ojai Art Center Theater

Frederick Knott’s nail-biting thriller, Wait Until Dark, opens this Friday, Oct. 1, and runs through Oct. 31 at the Ojai Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai.

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The production stars Tracey Williams Sutton, Ron Feltner, Chris Alton, Cecil Sutton, Hannah Eubanks and Michael Phillips. Tom Eubanks directs, with sets by Will Shupe.

Wait Until Dark tells the story of Susy Hendrix, a blind but otherwise unremarkable housewife who is menaced by three unsavory types who come to her apartment looking for a doll that was recently brought in from Canada by Susy’s husband, Sam. The doll contains heroin (unknown to Sam), the woman who asked Sam to bring it across has since been murdered, and Susy has already given the doll to Gloria, a little girl who lives in the apartment upstairs.

The ringleader of the thugs, called “Roat,” is a conscienceless psychopath, and one of the most genuinely scary villains ever to appear on stage or in film. He murdered the woman n Canada, he intends to kill Susy and Sam as soon as he gets the doll, and he will kill his two companions as soon as he no longer requires their services.

Susy, on the other hand, is, though sightless, amazingly resourceful. Roat, as the saying goes, has bitten off more than he can chew — way more.

As far as I can discover, Knott (1916-2002) wrote only four plays, and one of them (Mr. Fox of Venice) was never published. Another, Write Me a Murder, was a moderate success in both New York and London in 1962. However, his final play, Wait Until Dark, did quite well in New York, running for 374 performances, and even better in London, where it ran for two years.

Most of us know about it because of the 1967 movie made of it, directed by Terence Young (who had already turned a young Glasgow roughneck named Sean Connery into the super suave secret agent James Bond for the 1962 Dr. No). The film starred Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Jack Weston. It was ranked 10th on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments.” All of which might get Knott a footnote or two in the history of drama and suspense.

His first play, written for BBC and opening on the West End in 1952, later made into an unforgettable film by Alfred Hitchcock, was the kind of smash hit whose title becomes a figure of popular speech: Dial M for Murder.

Tickets to Wait Until Dark are $18 for adults; $15 for Art Center members, seniors (age 62 or older) and students. For tickets and information, click here or call 805.640.8797. Performances will held at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. There will be no performance on Saturday, Oct. 9.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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