The lights in the lobby are replaced with period lamps with haze effects. The ushers and concessionaires are decked out in speakeasy outfits. And jazz music plays over the speakers to set a 1940s feel.
Sounds fabulous, but from a company that has presented plays such as “The Woman in Black” and Stephen King’s “Misery” for its fall productions, audiences should expect an evening of suspense and thrill when they walk into the Bangor Opera House for the opening of Penobscot Theatre Company’s newest production “Wait Until Dark.”
In this adaptation of Frederick Knott’s 1966 thriller, three thugs terrorize the apartment of Sam Hendrix (executive director John Hedges, making his PTC debut) and his recently blind wife Susan (played by PTC newcomer Liz Mills) after they trace a valuable doll to their apartment in New York City. The thugs attempt to deceive Susan, but she quickly catches on and attempts to play the upper hand.
Production manager and resident set designer, Tricia Hobbs, who’s also making her Penobscot Theatre directorial debut in “Wait Until Dark,” wanted to make sure theatergoers feel like they are walking right into an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
“The main thing I wanted to give to this piece is a pretty atmospheric feel,” Hobbs said.
To help accomplish this, the company experimented with lights and sounds to help give the audience a sensory experience and create “true thrill” on the stage.
“It’s definitely a very challenging light piece,” Hobbs said. Working with master electrician and resident lighting designer, Scout Hough, the lights will be dimmed frequently, forcing the audience to experience things in a darker setting.
Adding to the drama and suspense, all of the sound effects will be candid instead of pre-recorded, allowing the audience to explore the information they receive using their other senses.
As set designer, Hobbs recreated a 1944 New York City brownstone for the stage. Every prop was specifically placed on the stage so Susan could move around the apartment efficiently and know when something was amiss. Audiences will be able to follow information as Susan receives it and will learn about her advantages, as a blind woman, in this suspenseful situation.
“This one I really wanted to get fear through reality and amplify that for the film noir feel” for the audience, Hobbs said.
“Wait Until Dark” opens Saturday, Oct. 20, and runs Wednesdays through Sundays through Nov. 4 at the Bangor Opera House. Two preview performances are set for Oct. 18 and 19. For more information, visit penobscottheatre.org.