Dead ringers

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  August 22, 2006

Until then, it’s diverting fun, its sly cat-and-mouse and sexual sparks weighed down little by thudding hints having to do with a loose stair and some ponderousness about “a life of duplicity in a houseful of masks.” Not that there isn’t duplicity, and there are masks, including, as she herself points out, Phillipa’s. As for the inanimate ones, the Jameses have lived out their 10-year marriage in an opulent apartment that belonged to his hovering mother, who collected, among other objets and antiquities, masks. And Neil Patel’s towering chocolate-brown-and-chrome set is full of them.

When Double Double (which Rees and Elice cooked up one weekend at Trevor Nunn’s house) opened in London, director Rees played Duncan, so he knows his way around the play. And it’s no wonder he took the part: it’s a showcase for a chameleonic actor who gets to turn on a dime from disheveled and disreputable, vaguely threatening bum with a burr to rakish English upper-class Richard. Even as himself, the made-over Duncan is soulfully charming. And Matt Letscher is convincing, even touching, in the character’s hirsute and sanitized guises. Masculine and vulnerable at once, Van Dyck keeps a firm grip on Phillipa almost until the end. But the writers should have given her a feminized moniker derived from Charles, not Phillip. After all, the thane calls his wife “dearest chuck.”

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