‚ÄúDouble Indemnity‚Äù is the stage version of the classic film noir ‚ÄúDouble Indemnity‚Äù adapted by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright now playing at ACT Theatre. ‚ÄúDouble Indemnity‚Äù, originally a novella by John Cain, tells the story of Hubert Nirlinger‚Äôs murder for insurance by his femme fatale wife, Phyllis Nirlinger, played by Jessica Martin and her insurance agent lover, Walter Huff, played by John Bogar. In breaking with tradition for a film noir, the story is told in flash-backs, by Huff beginning not with the discovery of the body, but with the initial meeting of the duplicitous pair. As a result of the emotional complications during the investigation Huff admits the murder and is packed off to South America and all ends badly.
Adaptations of movie crime thrillers are notoriously difficult to stage because the stories are literally ‚Äúaction packed‚Äù with many different scene changes as well as more visual action than dialogue; however, the set changes were handled expertly, the set and special effects worked well. The pauses between scene changes were not dull, due to the creative use of music and staging.
However, the first act was rather weak, partly due to some holes in the script. The biggest problem with the script is that the otherwise law abiding insurance agent meets Mrs. Nirlinger briefly twice and enters into her plot, which did not seem enough motivation. There seemed little sexual chemistry between the two, and Huff‚Äôs character was too street-wise to fall for her. Also the first act was too long and too slow paced, as well as riddled with clich√©s. Jessica Martin, as Phyllis Nirlinger, looked the part of the femme fatale, but never quite carried it off because the actress delivered her lines in a very stilted artificial way, with little expression besides an attempt to imitate Marlene Dietrich. It was also action, action, action with little character development, so it just was a little boring.
The second act, however was very lively, Huff‚Äôs boss and mentor, Richard Ziman a hard-nosed insurance adjuster, was a delight- funny, insightful and more than one dimensional . Since there was less action and more introspection in the second act, John Bogar as Huff brought out the betrayal and victimization of his character. The final scene was overly dramatic and telegraphed the audience.
This show is a must see for any budding set-designer or director who wishes to see how you can take a play written from a movie script and make it work in a different medium.
‚ÄúDouble Indemity‚Äù adapted by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright. Directed by Kurt Beattie. ACT- The Falls Theatre, 700 Union Street, Seattle October 27 to Nov 20. Tues-Sun, check website for times and Matin√©e schedule. Ticket Office (206) 292-7676, www.acttheatre.org.