Though the dramatist denied it, the savvy New York audiences of 1933 knew full well that the characters and events portrayed in Elizabeth McFadden’s new melodrama, Double Door, were cut from the sordid true life scenario of the Wendel family of Manhattan, a landed dynasty of American’s Gilded Age, circa 1910, whose members seem predisposed to eccentricities.
Now under the detailed direction of Bruce Gray, the rarely produced Double Door is being fluently staged at Beverly Hills’s Theatre 40, through October 19. And though the script itself harkens back to an earlier theatrical age, the eleven-member cast brings McFadden’s dramatic conceit to life.
The matriarch of the Van Bret family, Victoria (a commanding Rhonda Lord), is a manipulative tyrant, and she rules the family and its wealth with a firm hand (and underhand when necessary). On the day of her nephew Rip’s wedding (Ben Theobald plays Rip convincingly, but with lead feet; walk more softly, please!) we learn that the bride to be, Anne (Annalee Scott in a stealthily powerful performance), is despised by Victoria for being far below Rip’s station in life and, therefore, unsuitable to be his wedded wife. Through many machinations, Victoria unsuccessfully attempts to short-circuit her nephew’s nuptials. When such nefarious interventions fail, there’s one option left open to Victoria: she must kill Anne.
With a high caliber cast – including Diana Angelina as Victoria’s abused sister; Christopher Franciosa as the dashing Dr. John Sully; Elaine Rinehart as Avery, the committed chief maid and house orderly; Harry Herman as Mr. Chase; Katharine Kimball as Louise, the lady servant; Richard Carner as William, the manservant; Caleb Slavens as Detective Lambert; and David Hunter Stafford in the pivotal role of Neff – and high-quality production values (Jeff G. Rack’s set design is period perfect, as is the elegant costuming by Michele Young. Additionally, Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski’s sound design enlivens the proceedings and Ric Zimmerman’s lighting motif adds a sublime note of mystery to the unfolding events on stage) – Double Door is a well executed and suspenseful staging.
Double Door is a hoary theatrical treat suitable for audiences of all ages.