BOSTON — To see Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino make their Broadway debuts in "Wait Until Dark" is a treat for those accustomed to watching the two actors on screen.
Tomei received the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1992 for "My Cousin Vinny." Tarantino wrote, directed, and starred in "Pulp Fiction" and most recently wrote, directed, and produced "Jackie Brown." Both of them also appeared in the 1995 movie "Four Rooms."
But as every actor knows - Tomei more than Tarantino - stage is very different from film. Here, they maneuver their talents around Frederick Knott's classic stage thriller, making a pre-Broadway run here in Boston at the Wilbur Theater.
The original "Wait Until Dark" also had a preview run in Boston (at the Colonial Theatre) before premiring on Broadway in 1966; it starred Lee Remick and Robert Duvall. The film version starred Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin (1967, produced by Mel Ferrer).
The plot centers on Susy Hendrix (Tomei), a blind woman who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the machinations of drug trafficker Harry Roat Jr. (Tarantino) and his crew, after her husband brings home a doll that may hold contraband. Leonard Foglia directs, following his success with "Master Class" (written by Terrence McNally, it won the Tony Award for Best Play).
So far, this production has garnered lackluster reviews during the past three weeks. Is it lack of chemistry, flawed direction, or just a matter of ironing out the kinks? one critic asks.
History and reputations aside, the production did prove a little self-conscious on one particular night, but it showed promise.
Tomei is tireless. While she is more convincing in her vulnerability than strength at the end, she shoulders the weight needed to carry this production. Tarantino brings the comfortable thug-ness to his role with which his audiences are familiar, but it is more subdued than one might expect - down to his clipped mannerisms and quips to his wary cohorts.
The stage setting adds intensity to this tale. The apartment is austere enough but offers good props for Susy to feel around. Modern touches - from hip jeans and sneakers to the small white telephone - put a contemporary spin on the 30-year-old thriller.
Imani Parks, who plays Gloria, the little "brat" who lives upstairs and who ultimately helps Susy, pulls off her attitude-turned-admiration with notable skill.
All in all, "Wait Until Dark" is an eye-catching production with room to grow - not to mention just the kind of star power to attract an audience that might not ordinarily "do" theater.
* 'Wait Until Dark' previews March 27-April 4 at the Brooks Atkinson in New York and officially opens April 5 .