Let’s Review! Old Globe’s Double Indemnity pays a bonus to those who like thrillers
By Diana Saenger
A large, black, four-pillared frame surrounded by four scrims stands at the center of The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre-in-the-round stage as patrons enter to take their seats. The scrims rise up and down on the frame according to what scene is unveiled in the thriller “Double Indemnity.” The set creates intrigue even before an actor steps on stage. Brilliant!
When the action starts, insurance salesman Walter Huff (Michael Hayden) comes calling on client Herbert Nirlinger (Murphy Guyer) to renew his auto insurance policy. Instead of Nirlinger, Walter is met by his client’s wife, Phyllis (Angel Desai). She invites him in and sparks fly faster than the sofa cushions she turns over during the pointless conversation she has with Walter. He gets her sexy come-ons but restrains himself, sticking to why he’s there.
It’s during a return visit to the Nirlinger home that Walter learns Phyllis wants him to figure out a way to write an “accidental” policy on Herbert, so she can kill him to collect the insurance. The petite, beautiful and sexy Phyllis has Walter at hello. He hugs her with anticipation, but she firmly pushes him away; first they have business to do.
Just as their scheme is almost set, Herbert’s daughter Lola (Megan Ketch) and her secret boyfriend Sachetti (Vayu O’Donnell) enter the scene. Lola solicits Walter’s help to be with Sachetti almost as sensuously as Phyllis. It’s clear Walter isn’t able to resist a pretty face.
Back in the office, Walter’s boss Keyes (Murphy Guyer) congratulates him on his progress with the company. But soon, he will be wishing he’d paid more attention to the policies Walter is writing.
The plot to kill Herbert in a train fall is set and Walter feels he’s got every angle covered. He and Phyllis proceed, and after the deed is done, she files a claim for the insurance money. The policy causes a big stir at the company — it pays double indemnity — and Keyes begins to question whether Nirlinger’s death was really an accident, suicide … or maybe even murder!
Walter was certainly not expecting this turn of events and Keyes’ meddling throws everything he’s planned and assumed into a mixing bowl. How will he be able to get out of this situation?
John Rubin does a great job directing a terrific cast. He keeps everyone moving with the intent to let the story roll by like a film, since “Double Indemnity,” was a movie hit in 1944. Novelist James M. Cain, on whose story the play (and movie) is based, was a prolific writer whose work included “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Mildred Pierce,” and whose stories have always elevated imaginations.
Globe technicians went all out to give a film noir-feel to the play and fulfill Cain’s intentions. The revolving turntable stage allows characters to exit and enter with little intrusion and a bench easily transforms into a couch or a bed or what ever else is needed.
The lighting by Stephen Strawbridge further “darkens” the plot; but it’s the scrims that seal that effect. Instead of having actors smoking on the stage or rain coming down to impart a menacing mood, projectionist Keith Skretch produces those effects on the scrims. I must admit looking through the large black pillars to the set occasionally took my focus from the actors, but these elements, along with a top-notch cast, certainly kept the play fascinating and in the mood intended.
If you go
What: “Double Indemnity’”
When: Matinees, evenings to Sept. 1
Where: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Tickets: From $29
Phone: (619) 234-5623
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