Also see Zander's review of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
The opening finds the company's comic gem, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, playing Janet who is stationed in the living room of her cottage in England sometime during the mid-1970s. She drinks freely and configures just how she will poison her husband (Jason Asprey) when he will arrive on the scene. Before that, however, she has already practiced on another man, her lover (Josh Aaron McCabean understudy for this production, as the program announces). Janet, who tends to sing "Oh, dear, what can the matter be?," has not enjoyed what might be termed a satisfying sex life. What goes on between Aspenlieder and McCabe and, afterward, Asprey, is surprising. What transpires during the second portion of this comedy is impossible to predict. The final half adds the presence of actress Annie Considine who makes her first startling entrance just before intermission.
The play includes play(s) within the overall Accomplice, and author Holmes, infusing mystery with farce, might be satirizing theater biz with his second act. Stephen Rothman's direction is detailed and the pull-out sofa serves is kind of pivotalin reality and by implication. Patrick Brennan's set is perfect for the manor type home.
Aspenlieder fully inhabits her character while expanding her comic possibilities. She is the anchor for the proceedings and her character is a fulcrum, so to speak, for action. Talented McCabe is dry and adept as he should be during the opening act. Asprey is most effective with his initial role rather than later on. Annie Considine effectively plays a young woman coaxed to disrobe. Prospective theater attendee wonder just why?
There isn't anything particularly profound about Accomplice but it certainly has more than a share of flair and generates many a laugh. Congratulations to disciplined performers for not breaking character through some of the shenanigans.
Director Rothman's playbill note reads: "In fact as long as you promise me that you have never read, seen, or heard about the way Accomplice works I will personally buy any audience member dinner if they answer to how the play concludes after the first act ends." Rothman, I promise, will not lose any spare change.
Rupert Holmes, born in Britain, is an American playwright, novelist, musician, and storyteller. Some might recall that he penned the Tony Award winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Accomplice includes confusions, good people who might really be bad people ... women (but not men) in revealing wardrobe (thanks to costume designer Esther Van Eek), and even some gun shots. Moral: stay away from cocktails served to you by Elizabeth Aspenlieder.
Accomplice continues at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theater at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts through September 10th. For tickets, visit www.shakespeare.org or call (413) 637-3353.
- Fred Sokol