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Who did, or didn't, do it in B'way West's 'Accomplice'?
By Blaine Osman, CONTRIBUTOR

YOU may think you know something about murder mysteries, but after seeing "Accomplice" at Broadway West in Fremont, you'll not only question what you saw and heard, you'll likely acknowledge the fact that seeing isn't really believing at all.

That's because director Troy Johnson has crafted a delightfully twisted tale of intrigue and mayhem that catches the audience unaware many times. What you see isn't what you get, and what you get isn't what you expected. If that isn't what you want in an evening of stimulating entertainment, what is?

This not-often-performed play, written in 1990 by Tony Award-winner Rupert Holmes ("The Mystery of Edwin Drood") is truly a marvel. It's the kind of mystery Agatha Christie might write while under the influence of a hallucinatory drug.

Johnson's cast is uniformly excellent — even the understudy who performed, or didn't, on opening weekend. As Janet Taylor (or not), Michele Leavy delivers a spot-on glorious performance. She offers up quick retorts, deadpan grimaces and gritty sex scenes with equal aplomb (and all with barely getting her hair mussed). This is a tour de force for any actor, and Leavy is easily up to the

challenge.

That said, the other actors are also well cast. Todd Wright's rolling, bulging eyes and flummoxed ways make him the perfect foil for Leavy's droll delivery. He creates the stereotypical British stiff-upper-lip character just before the audience gets to watch it crumble beneath him (that is, when Leavy's not in that position).

If you infer from that last sentence that this play is for mature audiences, all to the good. For while nudity is — or isn't — a part of the show, there is enough sexual humor and coupling to make Broadway West forewarn theatergoers to leave the youngsters at home.

"Accomplice" is built on a foundation of hilarious double entendres that must be watched to be appreciated. One that comes to mind is when Wright responds "Come again?" to a Leavy line. Her comeback: "Not since the honeymoon."

There are also dozens of clever toss-away lines that tickle: "They think Uta Hagen is a brand of ice cream," "Miss Polyurethane-brain" (referring to one of the actors) and one

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about Broadway actor Mandy Patinkin performing the play "Love Letters" as a one-man show.

James Hiser and Amanda Mitchell round out the tiny cast, though with all of the actors playing multiple roles — or not — the ensemble seems larger.

Hiser and Mitchell are up to the task of doing whatever the script calls for, and if that sounds vague, it's because to say anything else would reveal more than you ought to know before seeing this production.

On equal standing with the actors are the marvelous special effects created by Michael

Ulmari and director Johnson. Some of their touches are truly electrifying, to say the least.

The set — appropriately upper-class 1970s England — is purported to be David and Janet Taylor's moorland cottage not too far from London. In the first act, one jarring prop slip-up was a highly visible 2006 bottle of Safeway-brand diet tonic water. That seemed strange considering that many other props (like the seltzer fizz dispenser) appeared authentic. The fireplace — an integral part of the plot in Act 1 — was an awkward shape, but it showed its dual purpose in Act 2.

To say more would be to reveal too much and spoil your delight when you see the play. Suffice to say that although there are no butlers or detectives in the play, it's a true whodunit. Hmmm. Maybe it's a did-someone-do-it? Or a why-didn't-someone-do-it? Or a ... well, you get the idea.

Playwright Holmes himself once said, "Even if I told you the truth, I'd be lying."

It's not a lie to say that "Accomplice" is a play that never takes itself too seriously — even when the audience (temporarily) does.

If that piques your curiosity, get thee to Broadway West to enjoy a marvelously inventive, brainteaser of a play where you, too, may get caught up in becoming a willing accomplice.

     
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