If you’re a fan of film noir, you’ll love (as I did) “Wait Until Dark” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.
Frederick Knott wrote the original play, which premiered in 1966, and a year later the film version was produced, earning Audrey Hepburn a nomination for an Academy Award. This current stage adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher was commissioned by the Geffen; it’s set in 1944, deep noir territory, and it does a great job of creating a tense, menacing ambiance.
This is a terrific ensemble piece, centered around a surprisingly compelling Alison Pill as Susan, the blind woman who is accidentally embroiled in a con job involving diamond smuggling and theft.
I’ve mostly known Pill’s work from her quirky, wide-eyed character Maggie on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” and I wasn’t expecting the kind of confidence and nuance that she projects in this onstage role, although she has a strong theatre pedigree.
This complex plot revolves around the blind Susan; her new-ish husband, Sam (Matt McTighe); an upstairs neighbor’s irritating daughter Gloria (Brighid Fleming), who ostensibly helps Susan, but has a schoolgirl crush on Sam; and three very devious schemers attempting to recover diamonds that have accidentally fallen into Sam’s hands, thanks to a now-murdered woman stashed in Sam and Susan’s closet.
And while blind Susan’s extra sensory perceptions make it possible for her to “see” things that other people with vision don’t, she’s still bamboozled by the conniving, but conscience-ridden conspirator Mike (Mather Zickel), who pretends to be a Marine buddy of Sam’s. He’s really part of a plot by Roat (a creepy Adam Stein playing multiple roles) and Carlino (Rod McLachlan as a blustery cop in on the con) to get the body out of Susan’s house and then return and find the diamonds.
The plot has many twists and, for an instant, I was both confused by and pleasantly taken in by it. Which is good! You want a little surprise in a suspense mystery whose story you’re not familiar with.
I recommend “Wait Until Dark” at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. Find out more at www.geffenplayhouse.com. The play runs through Nov. 17.
Treasuring the arts and Art’s Treasures
A note of apology regarding Pacific Serenades, which I mistakenly reported last week as having folded. Founder and Artistic Director Mark Carlson sent this note: “Although Pacific Serenades will take a hiatus for the 2014 season, the organization remains active with explorations underway for the future.” Another good reminder about why we need to treasure and support our local arts organizations!
Congratulations are in order for the Santa Monica-based T.J. Martell Foundation. At its third annual “Artworks for the Cure” event at the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar Oct. 11-13, they raised more than $1 million to help fund cutting-edge leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.
The foundation took the risk of expanding its popular fundraiser into a three-day event, with a Meet the Artists reception, VIP dinner, sales of artworks, a wide-ranging silent auction with amazing vacations, spa and dining packages, plus a live auction and public art exhibition.
I was privileged to attend what I thought was one of the most creative and inspired uses of the Barker Hangar space that I’ve ever experienced. With street art as the theme, and wall panels done up as life-sized subway stations, train cars with graffiti and a wall of photos for people to add their own street marks to, it was festive as well as inspiring. Hundreds of works of art were donated by artists for the cause.
Founded by a music executive who lost his child to cancer, the crowd was dominated by people in or related to the music industry, as well as the avant edge of the art scene, and it was a buzzing crowd, humming with energy.
Live music rounded out a celebratory night in the service of an important cause. The foundation has provided more than $260 million since its inception in 1975, with more than $27 million granted to pediatric cancer research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
I wish I could strongly recommend the world premiere of Steven Leigh Morris’ “Moskva” at City Garage at Bergamot Station. Based on the iconic “The Master and Margarita,” by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, the novel is a complex, macabre, satirical and strangely comic story about the Devil visiting Moscow during an era of atheism and the brutal ruling hand of Joseph Stalin.
A writer who was not allowed to write, Bulgakov’s novel wasn’t published until 1966, well after his death, but was instantly popular and is now considered a classic of 20th century Russian literature.
The irony here is that at the time, when writing critically about the dictatorial Stalinist regime, so much needed to be couched. Yet this play is so heavily expository in nature, about what’s wrong in Putin’s Russia and how today’s Moscow resembles Stalin’s, that the meaning gets buried under the weight of all the explanation.
While, as usual, City Garage reaches for the stars and dazzles visually and theatrically, I’m afraid that in this instance the production is fairly ponderous.
I enjoyed performances by the fearless cast, including Nathan Dana Aldrich as Woland (the Devil), and Justin Davanzo in several roles, including the tortured novelist (The Master). And there is plenty going on in the costuming and carnival-esque atmospherics to keep your interest.
So why not take a chance? Visit www.citygarage.org for details and tickets.
Haunting the Y
Tonight (Oct. 24) enjoy another edition of the live monthly storytelling series “Shine!” at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Monica YWCA. The Halloween theme “Haunted,” is more about memories, obsessions, lost loves and guilt than ghosts or goblins.
Admission is by donation, suggested $5 to $10. For info visit www.smywca.org, call (310) 452-2321. If you have a story to tell for a future “Shine,” visit www.StoriesBloom.com for details on dates and themes.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.