Barn Theatre review: Sinister and thrilling mystery will keep audience wondering who will win

"Wait Until Dark," a Barn Theatre production, will have four more shows at 7 p.m. Feb. 9-11 and 2 p.m. Feb. 12.

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Murderer Harry Roat puts on a rubber glove to avoid having fingerprints in the home of Susy Hendrix during a dress rehearsal of "Wait Until Dark" at the Barn Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The Barn Theatre presents “Wait Until Dark,” a sinister and thrilling mystery play written by Frederick Knott.

The show opened on Feb. 2, under the combined direction of Allen Clark and Cole Woltjer. The scene is set with a stellar cast that includes Barn veterans and newcomers alike. The curtain rises for the remaining shows at 7 p.m. Feb. 9-11 and a 2 p.m. matinee show on Feb. 12.

“Wait Until Dark” includes the familiar faces of Malachi Elmhorst, Averi Linn, Bailey Stahl and Reagan Toedter. Newcomers Gavin Johnson, Gabby Pederson, and Rod Schaffran help round out this dramatic story. The crew comprises the talents of Chloe Jensen (stage manager), Steve Gralish (set), Jan Buzzeo (costumer), Melissa Mangen (seamstress), Becky Sorenson (props) and Eric Harp (lighting).

The show takes the audience to the basement apartment of Sam and Susy Hendrix (Johnson and Stahl) in Greenwich Village. The 1980s are reflected well in the stage with the signature checkered floor, furniture and appliances. The costumes showcase the style of the decade.

The tale begins with crooks Talman and Sgt. Carlino (Toedter and Elmhorst) entering the Hendrix apartment under the guise of quick and easy money. After their short reunion, we are introduced to Henry Roat Jr./Sr. (Schaffran) a master of his craft who has already put his plot in motion. Talman and Carlino discover quickly that they will need to work together to avoid future jail time. Their task is to locate a doll with secret contents hidden inside.


The show continues to the next day where we meet Sam, a local photographer, and Susy, his vision-impaired wife. Sam has a photoshoot in Asbury Park, leaving Susy alone for the day. Enter Gloria (Pederson), the couple’s young neighbor who helps Susy buy groceries.

One by one the crooks come and go to Hendrix’s apartment searching for the doll. Stahl brings to life the complex emotions Susy feels as she begins to piece together the truth about the doll. Susy sends the crooks on a wild chase for the doll to Sam’s studio while Gloria helps make the apartment pitch dark to give Susy the advantage.

Stahl showcases Susy, a seemingly helpless individual, as an observant, clever, and resilient person ready to outsmart the criminals. Stahl truly shines on stage acting opposite Toedter as he displays Talman’s change of heart in the search for the doll.

Pederson accurately portrays the complicated emotions of a young teenager having a crush on her married neighbor to being willing to step up and help Susy outsmart the crooks.

The show ends with the climax of Susy versus Roat in the apartment with the whole stage in darkness as eerie music fills the background. Schaffran’s chilling and sinister presence against Stahl’s frightened voice will make the audience wonder who will win during this final showdown in the dark.

Hope Onnen has appeared in other productions in high school, college and the Barn Theatre. She is a teacher at KMS High School, where she is also the head speech coach.

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