MORRIS – Sixteen years ago, when the Morris Theatre Guild stage was located on Liberty Street, Jim Welch took on one of his favorite roles, Harry Roat in “Wait Until Dark.”
This week he’s bringing it back to the stage – now located on Illinois Avenue – but this time as the director.
The play features Susy Hendrix, played by Sam Obrochta of Morris, as a blind Greenwich Village housewife who becomes the target of three con men searching for heroin hidden in a doll, which her husband innocently transported from Canada as a favor to a woman who since has been murdered.
The character Roat played is one of the three con men and is a mastermind of evil that happens in the dark, according to Welch.
“It was my favorite performance, the most fun I’ve ever had,” Welch said about playing the character years ago. “We always did comedy. It was nice to play a bad guy.”
Bill Griffith will be playing Roat this time around in the performance that opens Friday.
“It’s not a difficult role,” Griffith said. “I’m usually cast in comedy, which is more difficult. If you can do comedy, you can do drama and thriller parts.”
This isn’t Griffith’s first brush with the play either – it was the first show he worked on in high school at West Leyden High School in Northlake.
He didn’t take the stage the first time, as he worked on set design and backstage aspects of the performance. Taking the lead male role is allowing him to take the character in a direction of his making.
“It’s interesting. I’m trying hard not to play Roat in the way I saw it performed in high school,” Griffith said. “I’m playing up the creepy factor. I see him as a more sinister and creepy character.”
He said he is channeling Hannibal Lecter, as he portrays the evil behind the character.
“If I can creep the audience out, I will consider my performance a success,” he said.
Obrochta is making her debut performance on the Morris Theatre Guild stage in the play, while also finishing her senior year at Morris Community High School.
It’s a lofty role for the newcomer, as her part calls on her to play a blind woman, something she doesn’t have personal experience with.
“It’s really weird to not make eye contact, but as we’ve practiced the role. It has gotten easier,” Obrochta said. “I take my contacts out, so my vision is impaired and any stumbling I do looks natural to the part.”
She’s used to the behind the scenes aspect of plays having been the student director in the Morris High School production of “Peter Pan,” but she hasn’t set foot on the stage as an actor since fifth grade.
“It’s a cool experience. I am usually the one in charge, watching the action. This is so different from that,” she said.
Obrochta said the play is a definite must see for the horror-thriller fan.
“It’s different seeing it live. You feel like you are going through the same emotions as the actors on stage,” she said. “Even if you don’t like thriller, it’s a good story line, and the plot is an exciting adventure.”
The play opens Friday night, with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next two weeks.
If You Go
What: “Wait Until Dark”
When: Friday, Saturday, May 9, and 10 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday and May 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $12 reserved, $15 at the door, $10 for children 13 and under and students with a identification. Groups of 10 or more reserved by phone receive 10 percent off. Tickets are available at the door or can be reserved by calling the Morris Theater Guild at 815-942-1966. Or email email@example.com.