Passion gone awry is part of the fascination of “The Postman Always Rings Twice.”
Originally a 1934 novel by James M. Cain, it has since been adapted into films, an opera, a radio play and three plays. The third one is an adaptation by Jon Jory, being given its world premiere by San Jose Stage Company.
Set in a small town outside Los Angeles in 1934, the story begins with a drifter, Frank (Jonathan Rhys Williams), being given a job as a mechanic by Nick (Robert Sicular).
The genial Greek owns a filling station and an attached diner.
He’s married to Cora (Allison F. Rich), an alluring woman who immediately catches Frank’s fancy. The attraction is mutual, especially since Cora despises her husband despite the stability he offers.
Frank and Cora soon plot Nick’s death. Their first try doesn’t work out, but the second does, landing them in trouble with the law.
A self-important district attorney (Justin Gordon), a crooked cop (Michael Bellino) and a sleazy attorney (Sicular) play the two against each other, but somehow they manage to go free.
Cora takes over the diner and likes what she’s doing, but Frank is restless. When she leaves to tend to her ailing mother in Iowa, he has a quick fling with a woman (Tanya Marie) but returns to Cora. Poetic justice ensues.
The plot is more convoluted than this basic outline, and one can’t always be sure where it’s going next.
Still, as directed by Kenneth Kelleher, it’s well done with fine acting all around. There are places where the writing could be tighter, but the action generally moves right along.
Giulio Cesare Perrone’s stark, all-black set, employing mostly a few chairs and some film, is in keeping with the novel’s original noir genre.
The sound by Cliff Caruthers and costumes by April Bonasera work well. So does Michael Palumbo’s lighting except when spotlights shine directly into the audience.
As for the title? As dramaturg Morgan C. Goldstein explains in the program notes, there is no postman. Most of the possibilities, she says, are related to bad news.
Certainly there’s a lot of that for the main characters, giving the play its intrigue.
Running about two hours with one intermission, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” will continue through May 6 at San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St., San Jose.
For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.