Some explanation is needed about reading DOUBLE TROUBLE. Even though it is a two-character show, it is deceptively complicated. We always said the sound department is the third character in the show, because they are very, very busy back there! You will see in the script that one character will be talking on stage and then, for example, goes into the bathroom. Once the actor is in there, a recorded voiceover continues the scene with the other actor who remains on stage. Meanwhile, the other actor is running around behind the set, changing clothes and preparing to enter as a different character. Carrying on a scene with a recording takes a lot of rehearsal and precision to make it seem real.
Because of the device of exiting in various parts of the set, the sound needs to be sourced to specific locations so that it sounds like the voice is coming only from that area. The designer may decide to add some of that vocal to the main mix, but even so, having the sound originate from the area where the actor is supposed to be will help the gimmick.
The set is also very important; realistic-looking, but with built-in escapes so that actors can exit, run around and enter from another location. Here is a description of the set that was used in Wichita. The main entrance to the MMG rehearsal studios upstage. A door with frosted glass, so you can’t quite make out who is at the door. Next to that entrance, there is a frosted set of windows in which one side can slide open and closed. It should be high enough so that an actor can be seen from the waist up when the window is open. Downstage center is a studio piano on casters and a bench. Stage left is a sound booth, a step up to the door - and glass window that runs along the booth. Inside, we see old recording equipment, a high back office chair, newspapers clippings, etc. [There need to be two hidden escape hatches in this room.] Downstage left of the recording booth, along the wall, there is a shelf with various show bizzy items on it, including a radio that will be used in Act Two. Next to that is a closet with a door. The doorknob on the closet door needs to be able to come off [trapping an actor inside, because it is “broken.”] We never see inside the closet, but actors need to escape from there as well. A little further on stage left is a desk and rolling chair. On the desk is an intercom, which needs to be wired for sound as it is used frequently in dialogue. Upstage right of the main entrance is an area with a coat rack, small table, water cooler, and an electrical outlet on the wall. Upstage right is a door which leads to the bathroom; one character compulsively brushes his teeth. We don’t see much inside the door, but you enter the bathroom and walk a little further off stage right to fully enter the bathroom. [There is an escape here as well.] Downstage right, on the same plane as the piano and desk, is a chaise lounge. Costumes are also very important. It was our intent that each character look and dress differently from the next, meaning full costume changes; not just putting on a hat or a jacket to indicate a different character. The off stage business is very tricky [not to mention sweaty] and requires a lot of planning and rehearsing. Two dressers are needed, and these two dressers also act as “doubles” for a couple of characters later. So physically they should somewhat resemble the two actors. They are never seen in light, so just a basic physical likeness.
And finally, a few thoughts on the characters themselves. When we wrote it, we threw in every possible skill and talent we possess: both characters sing, play piano, tap dance, do physical comedy and impressions -- but it is not essential that both actors do all these things. In virtually every show we’ve played piano in, nobody ever believes we were actually playing [which drives you crazy!], so the piano can be angled in a way that prevents the audience from seeing the hands, or other tricky ways to make it appear as if the actors are playing: a speaker in the fake piano, keys that actually depress but make no sound, etc. As for impressions, the character who does most of the impressions also happens to be wearing fake teeth - this makes doing the impressions [or even just talking clearly] a challenge. It would be good if both actors are funny, sing and tap very well and have a very good understanding of those old MGM movies with Astaire and Kelly. Oh, and are EXTREMELY good-looking, like us.
We are very proud of this show, and think it is funny as well as an incredible workout and challenge for the two actors, and calls for creativity from every department.
Bob and Jim Walton
New York City