Martin Thompson directs Rupert Holmes’ intriguing murder mystery ACCOMPLICE at Theater 40 with reverence to actors and what they go through to put on a play as well as to put up with each other. The first act seems like a fairly normal British offering with four characters all seemingly trying to outdo each other to gain control of the two husbands’ mutual business by having affairs with each other in every possible combination. A particularly shocking revelation just prior to intermission will have you wondering just who is the accomplice trying to assist the perpetrator in getting away with murder.
But all things change in the second act when it is revealed we are watching American actors during a dress rehearsal of a new play opening in New Haven. The play’s director (Richard Horvitz) is also the playwright and an actor in the production, with his wife (Alison Blanchard) footing the bill and taking on the lead role of a wife out to poison her husband to seize control of a significant portion of his company assets. How much of their real life is woven into the plot of the play? Are they out to get each other or one of the other actors? These two accomplished actors work so fluidly with each other, it is difficult to tell. And why does actress Alice Cutler rebel at having to strip when she knew the role called for it and was willing to don the leather bikini Dominatrix costume in the first place? Cutler eventually makes it very clear that this bubblehead blonde is anything but stupid. And who is this understudy (Paul Del Gatto) going on for Michael Taylor Gray that makes him so central to the plot? And what about the major scenic effect which could cause real harm if not used properly? Clues galore! And to all fans of producer David Hunt Stafford, you are in for a special treat with this show.
I would not do justice the play and the skill of the actors to reveal more of the plot. But I assure you, there are twists and turns as well as laughs and surprises from moment to moment which will keep you at the edge of your seat, trying to keep track of the details which all work out at the end – but not in any way you suspected.
Central to the action is the fact that there’s an accomplice in there somewhere, whose participation ensures the success of the whole criminal undertaking. But unless you’re already a dedicated mystery buff, you won’t see this one coming.
Adding to the mysterious ambiance of the play is the British country manor set design by Jeff G. Rack, sound design by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski, costume design by Michèle Young, and lighting design by Ellen Monocroussos. All these elements combine smoothly to effectively make you believe each and every turn has to be the real reality – until it isn’t.