by Emily Edelman

Dorset Theatre Festival has opened its 2022 season with a revival of the Frederick Knott thriller “Wait Until Dark.” The adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher moves the story from its original mid-‘60s setting into the 1940s, which gives the piece a delicious film-noir feel. The plot follows newlywed Susan, who lost her sight in an accident, as she becomes tangled in a murder mystery involving a police sergeant, a con man and her husband.

Director Jackson Gay moved the story along at a very brisk pace, which prevented some of the more memorable lines and actions of the secondary characters from landing their proper impact. Christopher and Justin Swader’s basement-apartment set was as functional as it was beautifully detailed, almost like an additional character as it alternately became both comfort and foil to its blind main occupant. Lighting designer Paul Whitaker made pointed and poignant use of the dark that increased the sense of unease during the play’s concluding, extremely tense moments, and emphasized Susan’s personal experience of blindness. In the final scene, which takes place in almost complete darkness, one must, like Susan, rely on one’s hearing to understand what is happening, and I found the sound to be somewhat muffled and thus the action difficult to follow.

Sara Haider’s Susan is strong, sympathetic and capable. Michael Barra’s corrupt cop Carlino is full of bravado with just the right touch of anxiety. Acadia Colan as teenage neighbor Gloria steals each scene she’s in. Keith D. Gallagher’s sociopathic Roat is effectively creepy and unnerving.

I assumed that the midweek matinee I saw would be sparsely attended, but it was a packed house due, I’m sure, to equal parts high production values, solid performances and edge-of-your-seat action — Dorset has begun its season with a production that is gripping and intense.

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“Wait Until Dark” runs through Saturday, July 9, at the Dorset Theatre Festival in Dorset, Vermont. For tickets and information, go online or call the box office at (802) 867-2223. https://dorsettheatrefestival.org/

Playwright: Frederick Knott; adaptation: Jeffrey Hatcher; director: Jackson Gay; cast: Michael Barra, Acadia Colan, Keith D. Gallagher, Eric Gilde, Sara Haider, Manu Kumasi; stage manger: Lori Ann Zepp; scenic design: Christopher & Justin Swader; costume design: Fabian Fidel Aguilar; associate costume design: Barbara A. Bell, Molly Morgan; lighting design: Paul Whitaker; sound design: Fitz Patton; fight direction: UnkleDave’s Fight-House; casting director: Judy Bowman, CSA

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