Back to the rehearsal hall!
Wait Until Dark started rehearsing last Tuesday. It’s directed by Ron OJ Parson, Resident Artist and mastermind behind Fences and The First Breeze of Summer. Ron is easily one of Chicago’s best directors of realism (and is nationally known as one of a couple go-to directors for the plays of August Wilson), but in the past couple years he’s started pushing himself and his designers into territory that’s a little more abstract and theatrical–like the tableaux in First Breeze or the final image of Flyin’ West–elevated moments that heighten the emotional impact of the scripts he directs.
Cree, our casting director, likes to brag that this cast is entirely new to Court Theatre, which is pretty cool. Charlie and Ron, the two directors who work here most often, do tend to cast from a pool of their favorite actors, people they’ve worked and developed a shorthand with (for instance the all-star ensemble of The Wild Duck). But WUD (as it’s become known in emails among the staff) is different. It’s a new kind of show for Court Theatre: a populist Broadway hit that most people know from the movie version, and also a thriller. This is a genre of play that no one seems to make anymore, outside of the annual International Mystery Writers’ Festival (at which Ron has won “Angie” awards in past summers). So we’ve got a new kind of cast for this show. It’s usually a star vehicle (Marisa Tomei played the lead in a disastrous New York production a few years ago), but we’ve cast non-Equity up-and-comer Emjoy Gavino in the lead role of Susy, the blind woman attacked by con artists. You’ll hear from Emjoy on this blog in the coming weeks.
The design presentations are very exciting.
Jack Magaw, our set designer, has created a meticulously-realized garden apartment, built all the way out to the back door, which the audience never even sees. But since the sound of entrances and exits is hugely important to the plot and the atmosphere of the play, he’s designed geography out to the street in front and through to the back bathroom (of which certain seats in the audience will have a clear view, while others will only hear the stuff that goes on back there). That’s another thing–Jack and Ron are taking advantage of Court’s semi-thrust to give each audience member a totally different perspective on the action, instead of building way upstage or designing a vast, uncluttered environment so everyone sees basically the same thing. This all contributes, we hope, to the tension.
Unlike the generic preppy outfits of the film version, our WUD, designed by Rachel Laritz, is going to take full advantage of the 1960s Greenwich Village setting. The renderings we saw at first rehearsal are heavily influenced by the setting’s art world, drugs culture, and high fashion. The characters, instead of existing in a “timeless” limbo, are clearly connected to the era and class strata in which they operate. Sam (Susy’s husband) is a fashion photographer, and Roat is a high-level drug dealer with a theatrical bent–drab is not the order of the day.
Sound is, of course, extremely significant in Wait Until Dark, since it’s Susy’s primary source of sensory input about the men in her apartment. There will be plenty of live effects, as well as a full-on background score (!!) by Ray Nardelli. In general, the production is going to look and feel more like the stylized world of film noir than the realism you might expect. After all, Knott’s bizarre, twisty plot hinges on all sorts of fun secret codes and Byzantine con games that would, frankly, seem a little preposterous in a full-on kitchen sink world (not that we won’t have a kitchen sink).
What do you think? Are you excited about Wait Until Dark? Skeptical? Outraged? Indifferent? What questions do you want answered before you see the show?