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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

A Dark Place at Waukesha Civic Theatre

All photos by Carroll Studios of Photography.

It's the 1960s. Three con men enter into the Hendrix home to acquire a lost doll of grave importance. Sam is away, which leaves none other than his blind wife, Susy, to protect herself and solve the mystery.

In her director's note, Kelly Goeller says, "At first, it may seem that [Susy's] blindness would be a disadvantage against Roat, Carlino, and Mike; however, as the story progresses, it turns out that may not be the case."

Ella Vitrano as Gloria, and Kaila Rachel Casalino as Susy

Kalia Rachel Casalino, as Susy, embraces that principle in her interpretation. With her subtle Transatlantic accent, Casalino eminates Audrey Hepburn charm as a '60s housewife. Her character seems entirely unaware of her own individual strength, until the most dire moments of the show.

Save for a few short lapses, Casalino portrays blindness convincingly - her gaze is always near the speaker, but not quite focused. Even as she navigates the apartment she knows so well, she relies heavily on her sense of touch and hearing to get from point A to point B. Patrons get a clear glimpse of how Susy operates as she listens closely to the rotary phone, to note which number was dialed.

All three of the conmen interact with Three Stooges level chemistry. Zach Oliver's Mike has a streak of empathy, as he befriends Susy to extract information. Logan Milway is a source of comedy in this suspense play with his loud, bull-in-a-china-shop Carlino. However, Casey Van Dam simply steals the show with his performance as Roat.

Zach Oliver as Mike, Casey Van Dam as Roat, and Logan Milway as Carlino

Roat begins as a cool and collected baddie, with a touch of film noir-style drama. Then, as the story progresses, we learn some of the darker truths of what he has done, and what he is capable of. In the dramatic climax of the show, Van Dam reveals a fully psychotic side to the villain. He and Casalino onstage together play out a wonderfully complex game of cat-and-mouse.

Ella Vitrano as Gloria, and Kaila Rachel Casalino as Susy

Between Michael Talaska's consistently impressive set designs, Susan Schoultz's intricate properties work, and Scott Fundali's spot-on lighting, the production value of Wait Until Dark is professional. This mystery is all in the details, and not a detail goes amiss on the Civic stage. The atmosphere is tension in physical form.

At a time when "A Quiet Place", which features deafness in the face of danger, is sweeping the thriller genre in movie theaters, Wait Until Dark parallels its' themes on the live stage. This play is a chilling representation of using a disability to one's advantage. Goeller's take on this complex story is the right balance of laugh out loud humor and unsettling dialogue. Catch this piece, running at Waukesha Civic Theatre through May 13th, before it's too late.

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