High-pitched notes ring quietly in the background — a prelude to a sinister outcome. The dim lights shine over the Hitchcockian apartment set, as an uneasy atmosphere settles in.
"Wait Until Dark," which opens Friday night at Production Workshop and runs through Monday, is an emotional thrill from beginning to end.
"This play flips everything you know," said director Lee Taglin '10, smiling. "It creates expectation and satisfaction in different ways."
Alone in her apartment, a recently blinded Susy Hendrix (Leah Cogan '13) falls victim to a trio of con men. Believing that a heroin-filled doll is at her house, the men make Susy the target of their manipulative games and test her limits.
"It's a story about a woman's survival — a blind woman surviving," said Alexandra Keegan '12, the stage manager.
Taglin chose Frederick Knott's play to mark his directorial debut because of the different climactic elements of the script, he said. He wanted to focus on the characters and their interactions and create a "thrilling experience" for the audience.
"This is a piece we're very proud of," Taglin said, adding that he felt lucky to have worked with such a passionate team. "It's been phenomenal."
Cogan transformed into "the world's champion blind woman," as Susy mockingly calls herself in the beginning of the play. Although Cogan's eyes have the emblematic blank stare of a blind person, she manages to convey emotions powerfully. Through her gestures and facial expressions, she connects with the audience members and draws them into her chaotic situation. She succeeds in fooling viewers into thinking that she is completely blind, without seeming dull or flat.
Cogan's use of props is also brilliantly coordinated. Without exaggerating her inability to see, she stumbles into furniture with an almost-natural clumsiness. Her movements are flawless, yet spontaneous enough to still look real.
But it's the dynamic interaction between the actors that makes this play so captivating. They are visibly engaged with each other's performances, which allows them to create the ideal emotional atmosphere. They respond almost viscerally to each change in mood and tone.
"It's a beautifully collaborative project," said Assistant Director Nick White '10.
The cast and crew came back to Brown to rehearse a week before classes started. They lived together and spent up to eight hours per day on stage. "It was great," Taglin said, laughing. "When you live together, you really break through."
For White, those seven days were "an incredible learning experience," he said, adding that it had been an ideal atmosphere to allow actors to try something new every night. "We all learned from each other," he said.
"After living so closely," Taglin said, "this play is pulsing and ready to burst — pshboom!"