Monday December 17 4:43 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Wait until Dark" is a Very Scary Play!

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Dunes Summer Theatre is a summer stock theater, with a resident company. In traditional summer stock, which ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day, rustic playhouses would entertain “city folk” partaking of country life. Many actors got their starts by auditioning for a place in a resident summer stock company, whose stock in trade is repertory – the same actors in different roles in 4 or 5 plays in quick succession.

Artistic Director Jeffrey Baumgartner comes to DST after 30 years in Chicago theater, where he acted in productions at Chicago Shakespeare, the Goodman, Steppenwolf and more. He founded and administered The Borealis Theater Company for 15 years. He says that DST’s goal is “to create a “Regional” theatre that reaches well beyond Michigan City.” They’ve hired professional directors, actors, and technical personnel with that goal in mind.

The DST building, which was in really poor condition a couple of years ago, has undergone a transformation, as have the cabins surrounding it. It’s not just fresh paint either, although I must say everything is sparkling white. You’ll notice the changes as soon as you go inside. The theater has air-conditioning (heating, too), new house lights, and track lighting highlighting paintings by Jeffrey Baumgartner. They’ve put acoustic tiles on all the walls which has improved the sound quality, and added a multitude of new stage lights (as well as a new electrical system).

“Wait until Dark” is directed by Guest Director, Leigh Selting, who is Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Wyoming. A member of Actors’ Equity, Selting has been involved with summer stock since 1972. This is his second year with DST.

“Wait until Dark” opens as a couple of con men, Mike Talman (Patrick Regner) and his cohort “Sgt. Carlino” (Mac Westcott), burglarize a Greenwich Village apartment. As they’re searching the apartment, they find the body of a woman in the bedroom. Since she was the third player in their con games, they get worried.
Just then, Harry Roat (Derek Brummet), an all-round bad guy, comes into the apartment. He admits to killing the woman because she wouldn’t/couldn’t tell him what he wanted to know. He said that she met Sam Hendrix (Andy Ricci) in the Montreal airport, and asked him to take a musical doll back to New York for her which she said was a gift for a little girl in a hospital. He did her the favor, but when she came to collect the doll, he couldn’t find it.

Roat wants that doll, and the heroin concealed inside it, very badly, so he blackmails Talman and Carlino into doing the job. Their instructions are to use the wife to get it. Just then, Suzy Hendrix (Kalika Rose) returns home. As they watch her move around the apartment and talk to her husband on the phone, they figure out that she’s blind.

When she returns to the apartment, she knows someone has been there, but she thinks it was Gloria (Emma Gordon), the little girl upstairs who does her shopping. Just then, Talman, posing as a friend of Sam’s, comes to the door. She lets him in and asks him to call the police. He fakes the phone call, and a few minutes later, “Sgt. Carlino” arrives. They both ask about the doll, which Carlino says is evidence in a murder.

Since Suzy knows nothing about the doll, she can’t help them. Although the three thugs terrorize her in her own apartment, with a little help from Gloria, she triumphs in the end! Lighting – or the lack thereof – and music add to the suspense.

Although it’s a really long drive for me, I love going to Dunes Summer Theatre, which is nestled in the woods of Michiana Shores. I usually take the scenic route, along Route 12 through the National Lake Shore, through Michigan City, and past the Friendship Gardens (for you ‘gotta-get-there-fast’ folks, you can take I-94 almost all the way). By the way, DST is only three blocks from the beach!

“Wait until Dark” runs through September 2nd at Dunes Summer Theatre, 288 Shady Oaks Drive, Michiana Shores. Parking is free. Running time is 2 hours with an intermission. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets range from $!5-$18 ($1.62 service charge if you buy online at www.dunesdark.brownpapertickets.com). FYI (219) 879-7509 or www.dunesartsfoundation.org.