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SELMA – If you’re a fan of thrilling dramas, the Selma Arts Center is set to bring Frederick Knott’s “Wait Until Dark” to the stage beginning May 17.

Susy Hendrix, played by Fresno’s Alyssa Benitez, has been blinded in a car accident. Now, as she’s adjusting to her new life, she finds herself in the middle of a scam.

“It’s not just me acting. It’s me actually terrified,” Benitez said. “She’s at a disadvantage and they know that and some of the characters clearly take advantage of that.”

Director Juan Luis Guzmán sets the scene saying that her “husband has been passed along a doll that, unbeknownst to him, has heroin inside. These con men are coming to get their doll.”

Roat is the sinister con man entangles two ex-convicts, Mike and Carlino, into his scheme to retrieve the doll filled with drugs. It seems he’s willing to go to any lengths to get that doll back. But does he?

They trace the location of the mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his blind wife, Susy.

Sam Hendrix had apparently been persuaded by a strange woman to transport the doll across the Canadian border, not knowing that sewn inside were several grams of heroin.

The woman is murdered and the situation becomes more urgent. The con man constructs a clever deception and convinces Susy that the police have implicated Sam in the woman’s murder.

Susy believes that doll is key evidence that proves his innocence, and refuses to reveal its location.

Benitez describes the show as scary thrilling, “but you’re rooting for her so much you kind of forget about that and you just want her to survive and fight for herself. A lot of the play is her realizing she can live on her own and she can fight for herself.”

To prepare for her role, Benitez consulted with administrators at Fresno’s Valley Center for the Blind as she didn’t want her portrayal of the blind to be disingenuous. She also spoke with a California State University, Fresno, graduate who became blind after a car accident, similar to character’s experience.

“One of the things the administrator told me is there’s a big difference between those who were born blind versus those blinded later in life. It’s a very hard adjustment.”

So while her character is trusting, she’s also a fighter and a survivor.

“People are walking in and out of her house and she just has to deal with it. But is she’s definitely a survivor. You’ve got to keep fighting.”

Guzmán said he likes that the lead character is a woman and that the focus of the drama is on her.

“She’s not used to being blind since it happened in an accident so she’s learning how to become a blind woman. I think it’s really cool how the circumstances lead her to become the best she can be. She has to trust in herself and she begins to use the darkness as a way to beat these guys at their own game.”

Guzmán added that he likes how this story was adapted into a movie in 1967 starring Audrey Hepburn and is considered as having some of the scariest moments of movie history in the story. Is he a big fan of scary movies himself? Not necessarily, but the thought of sharing that tense action in live theater is what he thinks will draw audiences.

There’s something about seeing someone scared and knowing that someone’s pulse is quickening.

I think people like the fantasy of it. We see it in movies so often, but not so much on stage. So it’s a cool experience to see something terrifying acted out on stage.”

“Wait Until Dark” includes a film noir event. Since Frederick Knott also wrote “Dial M For Murder,” that movie will be screened at the Selma Arts Center as a fundraiser at 7 p.m. May 25 with snacks and drinks available. Audience members are encouraged to dress in period clothing.

“Wait Until Dark” will be performed at 2 p.m. May 18, 19, 25 and 26 and at 7 p.m. May 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25. May 18 and 25 are the BOGO nights. May 23 is the discount night with talkback after the show.

Vizual Voices ASL interpretation will be offered during specific performances.

The show is rated PG-13.

Tickets are $17 and $19 available by calling 891-2238, by visiting selmaartscenter.com or at the Selma Arts Center box office at 1935 High St. Box office hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Tickets will also be available at the door for the same price until sold out.

Season membership holders may apply their membership benefits for this event. Doors open 30 minutes before show time.

For details, call 891-2238, email nicolettea@cityofselma.com, or visit the Selma Arts Center website at selmaartscenter.com.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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