When you walk into the theater at The Rep, you may think there’s a fire. A gray, flowing smoke covers the stage causing a definitive cloudy atmosphere that signals, along with the angled shadowy set design, that what you’re about to see is in the mode of film noir that defined the motion picture from 1944 on which this adaptation of “Double Indemnity” is based.
David Christopher Wells plays Walter Huff, a slick and experienced insurance salesman with the Pacific All Risk Insurance Company. When he comes to the home of Herbert Nirlinger, played by Kevin Cutts, to renew his automobile policy, Walter meets Nirlinger’s seductive wife Phyllis, played by Gardner Reed. Sparks fly and soon a plot is hatched to kill her husband by making it look like he fell off the observation deck of a train. A big payoff on an accidental death policy is the prize. Walter is the mastermind, although like in the film, you get the feeling Phyllis is more than she seems to be.
Nirlinger’s daughter by a previous marriage, Lola, played by Joy Farmer-Clary, becomes a kind of ally to Walter. She too has some “secrets” she would like to keep from her father. Michael Sean McGuinness plays Keyes, Walter’s boss who smells a rat all along after Herbert’s death.
Lighting and the show’s set concept are ideal. There are scenes in a home, an apartment, on the stern of a ship, on a train, in an office and driving in a car. The inventive set turns quietly and at various slants. It all fits perfectly.
David Christopher Wells as Walter is highly stylized and very measured in his performance. Gardner Reed as Phyllis is fitting as the sex pot with a plan. There are some very funny moments, some at the expense of this production’s purposely dated sophistication. And in case you are familiar with the film and think you know how it ends, think again. The resolution of this stage version is different from the motion picture.
“Double Indemnity” is the ideal finale show for The Rep’s season. It is stylish fun, familiar and appealing.