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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Your Chance To Be An Accomplice
On A Summer Night

Accomplice
Phoebe Jonas, Kate Hodge and
Ted Deasy

Red Bank, which provides a gateway to the New Jersey shore, takes on the feel of a resort town during the summer months. Its estimable Two River Theatre Company has gotten into the spirit of the season by supplementing its recently concluded subscription season with a production of Rupert Holmes' Accomplice, a twisty, sure to fool and amuse mystery-comedy. Accomplice is a beguiling trifle which will nicely cap any lazy summer's day.

The time is the mid-1970s. The setting is the English cottage-like home of Janet and Derek Taylor. It becomes clear early on that Janet, in collusion with her husband's business partner, is planning to murder her financially successful but decidedly boorish husband. Of course, over the course of two acts, we will discover repeatedly that nothing is quite as it seems. The multiple plot twists, which will surely not be revealed here, are amusing and quite entertaining throughout most of the evening. Unfortunately, in its closing moments, the play unravels and becomes silly as at least one plot twist too many undermines the audience's eager and willing, but already stretched, effort to suspend disbelief. However, by then, Accomplice has already provided a couple of hours of pure pleasure.

A major part of the pleasure comes from the witty and intelligent dialogue which Holmes generously provides. One terrific line which you may want to use when wanting neither to lie nor insult when faced with the necessity of "complementing" another is, "you will never be better than you are just now."

There is an apt artificiality to the entire performance which amplifies the tone of the play and invites us to play along with the game that is afoot. Under the sure-handed, deceptively light direction of Daniel Gerroll, each actor gives a well calibrated performance, going just enough over the top so as to invite us on board to share the fun with them, but not going so far over the top as to sink the ship. Appearing to fine effect as the business partners are director Gerroll and Ted Deasy. The roles of their wives are in the capable hands of Kate Hodge and Phoebe Jonas.

The design work is flawless. The large and complex set, which contains several levels and includes an operating mill wheel, has been magnificently designed by Dan Kuchar right down to an artful touch of stage color in his set decoration. His high ceiling crossbeam is angled over the audience so as to further increase the intimacy provided by Two Rivers' thrust stage. Melissa Schlachtmeyer's costumes, always appropriate and most flattering to the ladies, and Matthew J. Williams crucial lighting design make important contributions to the evening's success.

Author Rupert Holmes clearly owes a debt here to Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth and Ira Levin's Deathtrap. In setting this 1990 play in the 1970s, when they set the modern gold standard for the form, Holmes is surely paying homage to them. And while Accomplice is not on the diabolically clever level of either, it is easily clever enough to provide a full measure of entertainment in the first rate production it is now receiving. At evening's end, you may well feel flattered when the actors ask you to become their Accomplice by not revealing the evening's surprises, making you the title character of Mr. Holmes play.

Accomplice continues performances (Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m./Sun 7 p.m.) through July 16, 2006 at the Two River Theatre Company, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701; Box Office: 732-345-1400; online www.trtc.org.

Accomplice by Rupert Holmes; directed by Daniel Gerroll.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Ted Deasy
Kate Hodge
Daniel Gerroll
Phoebe Jonas


Photo: Mike McLaughlin


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- Bob Rendell



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