Sex, Greed and Deception Times Two in “DoubleDouble”

By Ernest Kearney — DoubleDouble playwright Guy Zimmerman reveals in the program notes, “came out of a case I wanted to make for Macbeth being history’s first Angeleno.”  Zimmerman, the Padua Playwrights artistic director, attempts to clarify that assertion by hinging the Scottish play to Paramount Studios’ 1944 classic crime film Double Indemnity.

At first glance, the notion of interjoining Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606?) with Billy Wilder’s iconic film noir might strike one as a muss up of the first order.  But on closer inspection a conspicuous, if unexpected, cohesion connects the components of the two.  Their central plots each concern a murder for “profit” told from the murderers’ view point.  Each delves into the psychology of murder, while investigating the act’s sexual aspect.  The main characters of both are not criminals but flawed human beings corrupted by their ambitions.  Each exists in a shadowy world in which outside forces threaten to destroy them.  And finally, both find inspiration in actual events and the executions linked to them.

The history of Scotland as told in Holinshed’s Chronicles was Shakespeare’s primary source for Macbeth, but Harold Bloom and other Shakespearean scholars argue the failed gunpowder Plot and the execution of the Jesuit Priest Henry Garnett influenced the bard as well.

The basis of author James M. Cain’s first two novels was a 1927 murder trial he covered as a reporter in New York.  Ruth Snyder was accused and convicted of murdering her husband, with the help of her lover.  She had taken a large insurance policy, with a double-indemnity clause out on him.  Given the death penalty for her crime, an enterprising young reporter managed to sneak a camera into Sing Sing when the sentence was carried out.  His snapshot of Snyder strapped into the electric chair was the decade’s most famous photo.

Zimmerman and Director Juli Crockett, succeed in juggling the two works with dizzying aplomb overlaying snippets of dialogue plucked from both while dropping hints of shared motifs like bread crumbs to lure their audiences deeper into the forest than it is safe to go.

The “snippets” which Zimmerman and Crockett selected, though small, are fiercely fragrant with Shakespeare’s poetry and that of L.A.’s poet-saint Raymond Chandler who, with Wilder, produced the filmscript of Double Indemnity.

There is no aspect of this production that doesn’t shimmer with intelligence in concept and execution.

Scenic Designer Melissa Ficociello provides an elegant cloth covered table that extends across the stage as if in expectation of a dozen disciples showing up.  Onto this stage emerges the three weird sisters, in this case a trio of Barbara Stanwyck doppelgangers in the role of Phyllis Dietrichson, clones right down to the absurdly cheap looking wig that had the Paramount executives spewing with indignation when they saw it.  * writer's hand *

The Barbara triplets (Henita Telo, Jenny Greer and Isabella Boose) bind the two separate works as firmly as Chang and Eng the original Siamese twins.

Macbeth’s fate was determined at his first encounter with the weird sisters. In Double Indemnity the fate of Walter, played by Fred Mac Murray was sealed the moment he set eyes on Stanwyck.  In DoubleDouble the aptly named character of Walter Walter (Saughn Buchholz) is oblivious to the doom awaiting him in the web spun by the Barbara clones.

Dialogue from both works intertwines with the pacing and playfulness of two frolicking otters, but unwilling to rest on the poetics of others, Zimmerman and Crockett called on the talents of Michael Feldman to provide the production with a couple of ballads which oscillate between Brecht and PDQ Bach.

Does Zimmerman make his case that “Every American is a little Macbeth ready to kill for a little happiness just out of reach?”  Beats me.  But like their Jack Benny (A Ménage En Train), one of the best shows in last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, DoubleDouble at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles * * writer's hand * * comes at the audience like a Three Card Monty tournament masquerading as a Zen Koan.  It is intelligent, superbly crafted, utterly perplexing and thoroughly entertaining, and the creative collaboration between Zimmerman and Crockett lack only a pair of capes to qualify them as the most dynamic duo you’re likely to find this side of Gotham.

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* * writer's hand * * After watching the first dallies, a Paramount executive spun on Wilder and bellowed, “We hire Barbara Stanwyck and here we get George Washington.”   David Iker Sanchez recreates the wigs stylishly for DoubleDouble.


* writer's hand * And good luck to the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles on their plans to adapt their current venue into a “two story, 16,200-square-foot, state-of-the-art public theatre.”

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runs this weekend at

Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

1238 West 1st Street

Los Angeles, CA 90026

For Tickets and Information Click Below:


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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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