Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Kirk Gostowski and John Arthur Long
Produced by Variations Theatre Group
Nominated for: Outstanding Lighting Design, Aaron Gonzalez; Outstanding Set Design, Aaron Gonzalez; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, Christina Elise Perry; Outstanding Director, Kirk Gostowski and John Arthur Long; Outstanding Revival of a Play
Photo by Matt Wells
About the Production
In 1944 Greenwich Village, Susan Hendrix, a blind, yet capable woman, is imperiled by a trio of men in her own apartment, tormentors who will stop at nothing to get what they want. As the climax builds, Susan discovers that her blindness just might be the key to her escape, but she and her tormenters must wait until dark to play out this classic thriller’s shattering conclusion.
Kirk Gostowski, John Arthur Long, Christina Elise Perry, and Aaron Gonzalez talk about the joys and thrilling challenges of working on this intense and engrossing play as part of their 2015 season.
What attracted you to this project?
Kirk: I saw the production that ran on Broadway with Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino years ago and I was so in awe of how effective the show is in front of an audience. It's magnificent how visceral the reactions are from the audience and particularly the climax of the piece.
John: The thing that attracted me to working in this show was having the opportunity to direct the classic thriller Wait Until Dark in a newly revised version that was set in the 1940s.
Christina: What attracted me to the show was first the character's (Susan's) inner strength and her ability to turn her loss of sight; a debilitating and humiliating character flaw as she saw it, into the very element that saved her life. This production had so many moving parts between the special effects, fight choreography, and 1940's time period that the environment itself was a character in the play, and very exciting to work with. Wait Until Dark was the most production and costume-heavy show I have had the opportunity to be a part of and each of those combined elements made it a complete blast to step into each night.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Kirk: There are too many things to list here but I loved the team we put together and how exciting it was to work with the new adaptation. When I chose this show, I had been focusing on the original text but when I finally read the new adaptation I knew it was the way we had to go. Moving the play into the 1940s was so brilliant on Jeffrey Hatcher's part, and I think it added to the depth of the piece. There are a lot of moving parts to this show, and when they all came together, it felt like magic.
John: My favorite part of working on this production was staging the play in such an intimate setting of the Chain Theatre's 65-seat black box venue. I've directed the play before in large theatrical houses, but this small venue placed the audience directly within the setting and made them a part of the terror that the blind heroine Suzy was experiencing. In addition, when the stage became totally dark, the audience could hear every step and whisper, gasping as the chills mounted. It was great showbiz fun for all.
Christina: Collaborating with the cast and Co-Directors John Long and Kirk Gostkowski was my favorite part of the production. Their passion and enthusiasm for the story and creating something truly special made each rehearsal a great ride. I trusted every person involved in this production to the fullest. My castmates Paul [Terkel], Patrick [Pizzolorusso], David [Rey], Kirk, and Schuyler [Press] are all immensely talented, humble, and hilarious people to be around, and an experience I'll never forget.
Aaron: Creative problem solving. Little to no budget, and we needed to create a 1940s basement apartment.
Photo by Matt Wells
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Kirk: I think the set was the most challenging part of the show. Working within a limited budget and time to make a realistic 1940s apartment in the village with rain outside the window and period everything across the board. I started calling it the play about the refrigerator after a while. Everything had to be great, and I didn't want to settle. Aaron Gonzalez's work cannot underestimated here. I love working with him. It was so beautiful and everything I hoped for.
John: One of the greatest challenges of working on this production was creating a totally believable set and atmosphere. We wanted the audience to believe they were actually sitting right behind the invisible wall of a 1940s Greenwich Village apartment and the set designer and tech crew did a fantastic job of creating the perfect setting from the tiniest details like the period labels on soup cans and a working 1940s refrigerator to sound cues of '40s radio music that came through a period radio. And, most importantly, the rain that continued outside to splatter and patter against the apartment window for most of the play, with a stage crew member dousing the cast members with water before they came on stage. It was a great professional effort that created the perfect realistic atmosphere for noir suspense.
Christina: The biggest challenge was the set construction and special effects. A fun challenge really when you never know which way the blood is going to fly that night!
Aaron: Building an off-stage elevated hallway for the actors to enter into the basement apt. in a single-level black box theatre.
What would you say was innovative or quirky about this production?
Kirk: This is the first time I have ever done double-duty on stage as a Director and Actor in the production. I knew I couldn't do it alone and John Arthur Long was the perfect collaborator to co-direct. During a performance of the play, my co-star and long-time girlfriend Christina Perry's family flew out from Arizona to see the show. I proposed to her that night during the curtain call with both of our families there and a regular audience. This production was extremely bittersweet as it was the last mainstage production at the Chain Theatre. Our landlord sold the building for development and ended our lease early. We are continuing to look for a new permanent home for our company. The amount of people screaming through the end of the show is unlike anything I've ever experienced. People were genuinely afraid. I wanted to place the audience inside the apartment so when they get the feeling of being locked in at the end of the play in the dark with a psychopath, people went wild!
John: The most noteworthy aspect of the production would have to be the fact that the audience was right there experiencing every sound from the raining pattering against the window to the humming sound of the refrigerator and the striking of a match and sound of the gas can as the liquid was thrown around the apartment. In the dark, all these aspects became truly terrifying. There was even a great innovative moment in rehearsal: when Mike entered the locked apartment, shattering the door, a jagged piece of the door frame broke off and he picked it up, holding it like a weapon. This worked so well, we rigged it into the door frame so he could use it every performance. A terrific example of a professional actor grabbing a theatrical inspiration during rehearsal.
Christina: Funny? Instead of a blood pack oozing on my intended cast mate, it launched about 6 feet and exploded all over me and the set! It made for a fun reaction to explore since I was blind, couldn't see what was happening, and had to "discover" what was covering my face. Curtain call that night looked extra gruesome! Success.
Aaron: I was able to make it rain down the window, a smoking ashtray, and a trick knife jut out of the wall, and a practical rotary phone ring on a table in the middle of the stage.
What was it like working with Variations Theatre Group?
Kirk: Being the founder and Artistic Director of this company it might be a little biased but I have to say we've found an amazing group of hard-working talented people. We produce consistent visceral work and don't settle. What started as a production company has become a family, particularly over the last few years that we had our own space.
John: The best thing about working with this company would have to be The Chain's total dedication to absolute topnotch professional theater. Every member of the cast, from Christina Perry's outstanding performance of the blind Suzy to the villains, husband and the terrific child actress playing Gloria were dedicated to perfection. Added to this were a stage manager, tech, and stage crew that are a director's dream of theatrical excellence. I feel honored to have been a part, along with Kirk Gostkowski, of such a high quality theatrical experience.
Christina: Everyone's passion for the show and the "in it to win it" quality each person brought every matinee and evening performance.
Aaron: They do not let lack of funding hinder their ambition, and neither do I.
What else would like people to know about this production for you?
Christina: This year of nominations is especially meaningful. Unfortunately, we were forced to move out of our space in February because the owner of the building ended our lease early to sell the space to be demolished and replaced with luxury condos. Thank you for your recognition and sharing your love, of our love, of entertaining audiences in Queens!