Double Indemnity

Based more on James M. Cain’s original crime novel of the 1930s than the famous 1944 Billy Wilder movie starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, this entertaining new Double Indemnity boils down to a femme fatale and a sap. Insurance agent/fall guy Walter (John Bogar) is a calculating dolt who gambles on the wrong chance. The murderous trophy wife Phyllis (Carrie Paff) is some kind of she-banshee, far different from Stanwyck’s flesh-and-blood adulteress. “I think of myself as death sometimes,” she proclaims. Together, of course, they concoct “a perfect murder” to off her husband; treachery, jealousy, and betrayal inevitably follow. But this condensed Cain is stronger on the male banter among insurance-company equals. While Walter seeks to conceal his crime from his coworkers (Mark Anderson Phillips and Richard Ziman), they take as much pleasure in dissecting the crime as he did in planning it. Amid their banter, punctuated by a pocket flask, there are ping-pong pre-echoes of David Mamet. They, like so many readers of the ’30s, are enthusiastic students of popular crime novels; today, that everyday genre has bloated into global terrorism thrillers and paranormal fantasies. (What writer or playwright today would devise a hero from the mundane realm of insurance?) Directed by Kurt Beattie and with a rotating, elegantly minimal set by Thomas Lynch, this Double Indemnity often casts its players in ominous Venetian-blind shadows. It’s all very noir; and the dark angel figure of Phyllis almost suggests German Expressionist cinema. BRIAN MILLER (See Brian’s full review.)

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Oct. 21. Continues through Nov. 20, 2011