Double Double

There's a lot of toil and trouble in "Double Double," the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of Roger Rees and Rick Elice.

With:
Phillipa James - Jennifer Van Dyck Duncan Mcfee - Matt Letscher

There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick Elice (co-scripter of Rialto hit “Jersey Boys”).

The play has been knocking around since its West End bow 20 years ago (Rees starred along with Jane Lapotaire). Though the marketable two-hander in an audience-friendly genre has received many productions, there hasn’t been a U.S. bow until now.

But writing a dandy thriller is not a simple death-by-numbers endeavor, despite this numerology-centric script. It requires precision, logic and a genuine sense of fun, even as its plot ultimately twists and turns and doubles back. Here, the premise begins rather tenuously and gets more troublesome as the play goes on.

The wealthy Phillipa James (Jennifer Van Dyck) brings the homeless Duncan McFee (Matt Letscher) to her ritzy London digs, designed with the right touch of swank by Neil Patel, with Charles Foster providing requisite lighting mood for ambient suspense.

But it’s clear, as the cool lady unveils her scheme, that her aim is not philanthropic: She wants the hirsute hobo — whom she just happened to see on the street and who bears an uncanny resemblance to her late husband, Richard — to impersonate him so she can collect his $2 million trust fund. The details of Richard’s death, the conditions of the deal and the behavior of the new widow are more than enough to raise arched eyebrows from the aud — but not dim Duncan.

To see if the endeavor can succeed before the trust’s lawyer, she says, Duncan must first pass muster with Richard’s friends and secretary. But in addition to this far-fetched point, the show’s second act is layered with further back stories, revelations and an unlikely romance.

Ever increasing and strained exposition — and heightened acting — makes one wonder if the play is deliberately veering into Charles Ludlam territory. If only.

As play reaches its climax, the audience is forced to slog through a series of narrative switcheroos that are more exhausting than thrilling.

The ending offers a nice twist, but one not altogether satisfying in a production that has few earned payoffs or charms. There’s some class playfulness in this gender-switch “Pygmalion” angle, and Letscher, whose Scottish brogue is as thick as bad haggis, has some fun with the transformation. But the double dealings add up almost by whim rather than calculation — and that’s not dramaturgy, just improv.

Problems with suspension of disbelief could have been softened had the dialogue been more sparkling, but here the verbal champagne falls flat.

Production’s major wit comes from scenes introduced by recordings of Ella Fitzgerald singing “You Take Advantage of Me,” “All Right With Me” and “From This Moment On,” creating the right mood for a sophisticated good time. But the double-cross begins right there.

Double Double

Williamstown Theater Festival Main Stage; 511 seats; $56 top

Production: A Williamstown Theater Festival presentation of a play in two acts by Roger Rees and Rick Elice. Directed by Rees.

Creative: Sets, Neil Patel; costumes, Jennifer Caprio; lighting, Charles Foster; sound, David Thomas; production stage manager, Jenny Dewar. Opened, Aug. 17, 2006. Reviewed, Aug. 19. Runs through Aug. 27. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Phillipa James - Jennifer Van Dyck Duncan Mcfee - Matt Letscher

More Legit

  • Eric McCormack First Time in Variety

    'Will & Grace' Star Eric McCormack Looks Back on Early Stage Roles

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda Announces The Hamildrops (Listen)

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Announces 'Hamilton' Mixtape Vol. 2 With 'Ben Franklin's Song'

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • Pinocchio review

    London Theater Review: 'Pinocchio'

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • The Children review

    Broadway Review: 'The Children'

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • Marilyn Stasio's 10 Best New York

    10 Best New York Theater Productions of 2017

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • Adam Driver

    Adam Driver to Star in 'Burn This' on Broadway

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

  • The Twilight Zone review

    London Theater Review: 'The Twilight Zone'

    There’s a lot of toil and trouble in “Double Double,” the comedy-thriller making its American preem at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the Berkshires. The play, which has little comedy or thrills but plenty of unbelievable characters, limp dialogue and plot holes, is the creation of a.d. Roger Rees (who helms the production) and Rick […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content