After last spring’s wildly popular production of the well-known comedy Greater Tuna, director Kevn Crider is making good on his promise to stretch the talents of his students with a serious dramatic thriller. This weekend ‘Dragon Drama’ will present Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark at the Harlan Elementary Auditorium.
It is refreshing after a long absence that drama has returned to the boards at HHS. There was a local string of teachers throughout the years who always stood tall when it came to competing with other schools in speech and drama. Harlan’s first drama teacher was Mrs. Charles Tye, followed by Miss Lois Ellison, and then Mrs. L.C. Henderson, who expanded the program and became an icon with regards to the art.
Crider’s experience in theatre is impressive, and for the last three years he has taught English, Advanced Critical Reading and Theatre Arts at Harlan Middle/High School. It is gratifying to see such high quality performances return to HHS which was for many years a bastion of the dramatic arts.
The first Broadway production of Wait Until Dark (1966) starred Lee Remick in the lead role. Her portrayal of Susy Hendrix earned her a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. The success of the play prompted Warner Brothers to purchase the film rights soon after the Broadway premiere. You may be familiar with the 1967 film version which starred Audrey Hepburn as the blind Susy, Alan Arkin as the violent criminal Harry Roat, and Richard Crenna as small-time con artist Mike Talman. Hepburn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
The plot centers around Susy Hendrix, a blind Greenwich Village housewife, who becomes the target of three con-men searching for the drugs hidden in a doll, which her husband Sam innocently transported from Canada as a favor to a woman who has since been murdered. The trio try to convince Susy that her husband has been accused of drug smuggling and the only way to protect him is to give them the doll. Little do the men know that Susy gave the doll to Gloria, a little girl in the upstairs apartment. Susy is incredibly clever, and with the help of Gloria, she realizes the true identity of the men and plans to defeat them. I won’t give away the dramatic ending. You will just have to come and witness it yourself.
Drama student Sarah Lindsey interprets the poignant role of Susy with sweetness. Simple and trusting, she endures the terror and deception and eventually demonstrates the fortitude needed to overcome her infirmity. Scotty Gaines is exceptional as con-man Mike Talman who poses as a friend of her husband to gain Susy’s trust and eventually comes to admire her for her quiet strength and ability to stand up to the three of them, despite her disability.
Braxton Fannin, who wowed us with his comedic performance in Greater Tuna, shows his dramatic range with his performance as Harry Roat, the violent murderer who seems to delight in taunting and torturing the innocent Susy. The cast is rounded out with Leighton Piper, Colton Gambrel and Kyla LeFevers. Heather Dickenson is co-director while her husband, Jon Dickenson, constructed the impressive stage set. Crider is blessed with a competent technical staff, as well as a plethora of parent and community volunteers who have contributed props and assistance to the production.
Crider urges everyone “Please come out to support the incredible students in my ‘Dragon Drama’ theatre program as they perform Frederick Knott’s thriller, Wait Until Dark. The show runs Friday through Sunday. Hope to have you join us on this suspenseful ride.” I certainly plan on being there, front-row center.