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A Classic Comic Murder Mystery

Sleuthing out 'Accomplice' is no small task

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Derek and Janet (Todd and Amber Hanson) argue in a scene from "Accomplice." - ELIZABETH WARNIMONT
  • Elizabeth Warnimont
  • Derek and Janet (Todd and Amber Hanson) argue in a scene from "Accomplice."

Scott Schultz discovered early on that he enjoys directing much more than performing on stage. "I'm definitely a better director than I am an actor," he quips. "It was 2014 that I took my first stab at directing up at the college (COCC), and I haven't stopped since." Rupert Holmes' "Accomplice," on stage now through next weekend at 2nd Street Theater, marks Schultz' eighth go at it—and judging by the opening night performance last Friday, the director has found his true calling.

"Accomplice" is Holmes' second Broadway play, after his highly successful musical, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," which premiered at the Imperial Theatre in 1985. The musical won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Leading Actor. "Accomplice" premiered on Broadway in 1990.

"I've never directed a murder mystery," Schultz told the Source Weekly. "They've always interested me, but I never thought I would direct anything near one. I like dark comedy; comedic plays are more my style. But reading it a couple of times, I could see the humor is exactly my style."

Set in mid-1970s England, the play is a sort of classic, comic murder mystery. "The first half is more the murder mystery, very British, very Agatha Christie if you will," Schultz says. "Then Act Two just throws that out the window and the humor and the jokes just come in non-stop."

Catherine Christie gets to have perhaps the most fun on the set as Melinda, aka Harley, a ditzy young diva-wannabe getting her first shot at a "serious" role in her friend Derek's new play. Husband and wife team Todd and Amber Hanson, playing long-married couple Derek and Janet Taylor, also get to have some fun, via a slew of comic one-liners.

In one scene, Derek offers his wife an antacid tablet, saying: "Try one? No? Could it be that I am how you spell relief?" Janet replies: "No, not since our honeymoon, sweetie."

In the Friday night performance, understudy Levi Wagoner got to play Melinda's husband Jon, one of the first characters to reveal that he was not who he professed to be, a role otherwise occupied by Thoroughly Modern Productions' Artistic Director David DaCosta.

Surprising turns are the crux of the twisted tale, in which almost nothing you see can be believed to be true. Playwright Holmes takes plot twists to such an extreme level that it's sure to take even the most seasoned theatre fan by surprise. "It's such a unique play. It makes fun of theatre in general. It's such a perfect way to break that wall, and poke fun at actors—although I have never experienced anyone as hard to work with as Harley!" (At one point Harley halts production when she acquires a sudden distaste for a particular aspect of her role.)

In the opening scene, Janet and Derek banter about after Derek comes home early from his day at work. Come to find out, Janet is actually playing out a practiced alibi for the ensuing attempted spousal homicide—or so it seems. Things just keep getting dicier as it becomes more and more apparent that just about everyone is out to murder somebody else, at all levels in the layered tale. All is eventually revealed, thankfully, though in appropriately unconventional fashion – of course.

The play is not recommended for children. It has no specific age minimum, but between the sexual references and the complex turns of plot, it may be best to leave the kiddos at home.

"It's a really fun show, but it isn't quite the show for children," Schultz offers. "There is brief, very brief nudity, and there's a gunshot that goes off during Act Two. Also, there's a ridiculous amount of plot twists. Everyone should come see it, but I strongly recommend leaving little ones at home. A young mind might find this extremely boring, while the adults are laughing inexplicably."

Go for a slew of good laughs—and have fun trying to sleuth out who is up to what.

Accomplice
Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm, through June 23
2nd Street Theater
220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend
$19 adult, $16 student/senior 60+
2ndstreettheater.com
541-312-9626

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