“Double Indemnity” based on the book by James M. Cain at ACT Theatre

Don’t go to ACT expecting Billy Wilder’s 1944 classic noir film. Oh you’ll see “Double Indemnity” all right, but this manifestation more closely corresponds to the original James M. Cain book from which the movie was adapted. Written by Seattle favorites David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, this stage version will keep you on the edge of your seats, just as the movie does.

The provocative though murderous blonde (Carrie Paff) meets “everyman” in the person of Water Huff (John Bogar) an insurance agent who, a little too quickly and enthusiastically, becomes her accomplice in the plot to kill her husband and collect the insurance. Ah, how easily lust takes control! In Director Kurt Beattie’s mind, the play is metaphor for much of contemporary society.

Paff’s greedy Phyllis is thoroughly evil. She’s grasping and will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what she wants. Huff hasn’t the moral fiber to resist her charms or her schemes. Why should he? All too happy to win the luscious babe and a share in the hefty insurance settlement, he helps her plan the perfect crime. Only it isn’t perfect.

Paff is better as evil witch than seductress. Bogar manages to be both wily and naïve. The supporting cast is strong and amazingly versatile as they each take on multiple roles.

It all plays out on a stunning stage (designed by Thomas Lynch) that appears to be made of highly polished malachite. As panels of this green box slide away, scenes are revealed. A revolving segment of the floor offers other clever set spaces. Like Phyllis this set has no soft edges. Rick Paulsen’s lighting enhances the effect. Here visual purity is in sharp contrast to moral depravity.

Through November 20 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle. (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

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