“Darkness darkness, be my pillow, Take my hand and let me sleep, In the coolness of your shadow, In the silence of your deep.”
Darkness has descended on the stage of the Baldwin High School Little Theatre as the Milledgeville Players’ production of “Wait until Dark” finished its run this past Sunday afternoon.
This was one of the most unique plays I have ever seen. It is difficult to express in words just how well the cast built up the suspense through the first act and the first half of the second act, leading to sheer terror in the last part of Act II.
Though I’ve mentioned the cast in previous columns, as the old slogan for Universal Pictures used to say, “A good cast is worth repeating.”
Let me start off by acknowledging Ken Hendry, Anisio Santos and Taylor Phillips. Ken played Sam Hendrix, the husband of the blind woman, Susy. Anisio and Taylor played police officers (with Taylor doubling on sound).
Their parts were not huge in terms of stage time but critically important. It’s almost a cliché to say there are no small parts in a play, but after several years of acting and directing, I realize that is absolutely true. Every character in a play serves a purpose.
And quite honestly, some of those parts are often the most difficult to do. You have to show up at the rehearsals, be there at the call time before the play opens, even though you may only be on stage for a few minutes. It’s easy to let yourself get distracted and lose your sense of character.
McKayla Burgamy was wonderful as the young teenage neighbor, Gloria. It was really interesting watching her character go from being quite antagonistic toward Susy to being her one true and trusted ally. It was especially fun watching her get excited about being part of a life or death situation without completely realizing it truly was a real life or death situation.
M’ville Players veteran David Wells played Mike Talman, the member of the gang of thieves who came to respect and care for Susy. Not enough to let her off the hook! But enough to feel somewhat ashamed for what he was doing and how he was leading her on. David used body language a lot to let the audience realize that he was feeling guilty about what he was doing — something that would be impossible to be interpreted by a blind girl.
Quite a change from playing the musical devil, Mr. Applegate, in last year’s production of “Damn Yankees.”
Troy Hencely gave a great performance as Sgt. Carlino, the “fake” police officer who tries to convince Susy that her husband is possibly implicated in a murder and also having an affair with another married woman. Troy came in just right as sort of the middle gangster in terms of emotion — not as taken by Susy or as sentimental as the aforementioned Mike Talman, but not as methodically evil as the enigmatic Harry Roat.
As for Ken Garland as the sinister Harry Roat and Leanne Branch as Susy Hendrix, I guess I can sum it up this way.
I’ve seen and been involved in many plays in Milledgeville over the past two decades — community theater, college and high school productions, traveling professional groups, etc. I don’t believe I have ever seen finer acting than Ken and Leanne during the last 15 minutes of “Wait until Dark.”
Leigh Thompson, who directed this thriller, had to work with many technical challenges. Lighting and sound are crucial to a play like “Wait until Dark” — heck, they’re critical to any play — but so much of this one revolved around a particular sound at just the right time, the telephone ringing on cue AND for the correct number of rings, etc.
And so much of that tense second act is based around which lights are on and which are off at certain moments — and who controls WHEN they go off and on.
Leigh did just as great a job with the technical aspects as she did at getting the most out of her capable cast.
OK, one of the reasons why I’m reviewing much of what happened in this play is because so many of you missed it! To be polite, attendance was “spotty.” And when you’ve worked hard on pulling a play together (or a concert for that matter), it’s frustrating to have small audience numbers. The cast and crew love to know their work has been seen and appreciated.
Now in all fairness, I have been in plays where we had a large turnout but the audience was pretty much dead on arrival. I have also been in shows with small house numbers but the folks there were enthusiastic and obviously appreciative of what they were seeing. But it’s still awfully nice to see a fair number of seats with a human figure sitting in it (other large mammals like kangaroos are also acceptable).
Come on, Milledgeville. Trust me — you will enjoy a live performance of theater or music far more than what you might think if you give it a chance.
On the other hand, there were folks there for each performance, and I want to thank each of you for that. So thank you Lisa, Gene, Cathy, Craig, Tina, Tom, Dick, Harry, Frick, Frack, Larry, Moe, Curly, Shimp, Ilsa, Shelby, Sidney, Patti, Maxine, Laverne, Manny, Moe, Jack ... well, I guess it will be sort of impractical to thank everyone who attended.
But I would like to thank Clint Raburn and all the folks involved with the Fine Arts program at Baldwin High School for letting us use their theater for this show. It may be considered the “old” theater at this point, but it’s still a fine facility, and the Milledgeville Players are truly grateful.
But as darkness falls on “Wait until Dark,” the light will soon be coming up over a small Scottish village called “Brigadoon” as the M’ville Players get ready for their next production, one of the all time classic musicals from the great team of Lerner and Lowe.
More on that next time.
Our opening lyric is from the song “Darkness Darkness,” which opened the third album by the Bay Area band, the Youngbloods, back in 1969. That album, “Elephant Mountain” is often considered the group’s best, incorporating elements of jazz and country into both psychedelic and blues based rock.
In fact, the song “Darkness Darkness” features one of the most haunting Appalachian style fiddle backdrops you will ever hear. Though the Youngbloods are best known for their “hit” single, “Get Together,” the album “Elephant Mountain” is really their definitive statement marking them as a remarkably talented and often overlooked band of that wonderful era.
“Darkness darkness, hide my yearning, For the things I cannot be, Keep my mind from constant turning, Toward the things I cannot see.”
Catch you on the flip side.
Tom Toney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.