Conditioned though audiences invariably are from countless thrillers dramatic and cinematic, to root for the female in jeopardy (AKA the Fem Jep), it ups the ante a little bit when the jepped fem in question is both a fighter and a character with an edge.
Exhibit A: Susan Hendrix who is menaced by a trio of nasty individuals in Wait Until Dark, the play — and later movie — written by Frederick Knott.
"In this version, she is mean, she is funny, she is vulnerable and she's awful in those vulnerable moments, too," said Alison Pill, who will play the role in a new updated production adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and presented by the Geffen Playhouse. "She's a person, and she's had a really bad day."
"And that's the day on which we find her," continued Pill, for whom the Geffen's Dark is both a return to the stage after a two-year absence and her Los Angeles live theatre debut. "Just the exhaustion level is the biggest challenge."
Susan is also blind, but that fact isn't supposed to be a defining characteristic. She may have lost her sight recently, but she gets around her Greenwich Village apartment just fine and proves more than capable of taking care of herself.
Pill points to an observation from one of the other characters who notes not that Susan is blind, but that she can't see.
"It's like, 'Thank you for that,'" said Pill. "Most people say 'You're blind' as though this is something that you are, not this is what you can't do anymore. The blindness is sort of an afterthought. It's her experience, but it's not her. Really, the most interesting thing we ran into in talking with anyone who is blind is, 'Why the f*ck do you think we're any different?'"
Of course, without this difference, there would be no play. Wait Until Dark, the second of Knott's two celebrated stage thrillers (Dial M For Murder being the other) has become a college and community theatre staple. Director Matt Shakman has fond memories of a Plaza Players production of Dark in his native Ventura, CA, for which his brother ran props. Hatcher saw what he considered an effective production in Minnesota.
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