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November 14, 2013

Building suspense

Psychological thriller 'Wait Until Dark' opens at Firehouse tonight

Though the poster for “Wait Until Dark” features a creepy close-up of a doll’s eye, it’s not a horror story.

The doll doesn’t come to life and is not meant to be particularly terrifying, but it is the catalyst for what transpires in the play opening tonight at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport.

“The impetus of this whole play is a doll — filled with heroin,” director Kimm Wilkinson said.

Con man Roat and two ex-convicts, Mike and Carlino, have traced the location of the doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his blind wife, Susy. Sam, unaware of the doll’s contents, was tricked by a female stranger into transporting it across the Canadian border.

The three men convince Susy that Sam has been implicated in the stranger’s murder and that the doll is evidence. But with the help of young upstairs neighbor Gloria, Susy figures out their bizarre charade. She also uses the darkness to her advantage, turning off all of the lights so that no one can see.

The psychological thriller, written by Frederick Knott, was first performed on Broadway in 1966 and was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin in 1967.

Wilkinson, who has been the Firehouse’s artistic director for 12 years now, knew she wanted to bring the production to the Firehouse after she saw it in London 18 years ago.

“I loved the way it made me jump out of my seat,” she said. “I am a lover of horror and thrillers and suspense.”

She knew the time was right this year, when the Firehouse started looking for a counterpart to this summer’s “The 39 Steps,” which was full of laughter and comedy.

“We were looking for a drama but also something that’s fast-paced with lots of energy,” Wilkinson said. “We have not really done anything that is from this genre.”

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