by Rupert Holmes

People who think theater is boring haven't seen "Accomplice."
by Lisa Millegan
Modesto Bee Arts Writer

This twisted murder-mystery tops your expectations and then tops them some more. Smart, funny, sexy and creative, the play takes you places you never imagined you would go.

The experience is like thinking you're going to the county fair but heading to Disneyland instead.

But you have to be patient — the best parts don't come until the second act.

Stage 3 Theatre has asked audiences not to reveal the plot so I can't tell you much of what happens. The fun comes from trying to figure out not only the identity of the murderer (or murderers) but the victim (or victims) and even the crime.

For a glimmer of what to anticipate, think of movies that keep audiences off balance like "Adaptation," "Wild Things" or "Les Diaboliques."

"Accomplice" is the brainchild of Rupert Holmes, the author of the Tony Award-winning musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and the pop hit "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)." It ran briefly on Broadway in 1990 and won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Holmes' clever dialogue incorporates pop culture references, jokes about the entertainment business and boatloads of puns. "You're not meant to be a conductor," one character says when contemplating electrocuting another. "It must fairly break your heart."

There are only four actors but it seems like more because of all the different permutations they undergo. Cast members Maryann Curmi, Frank Silva, Graham Scott Green and Terri Wilson appear to really enjoy working together, which makes it all the more pleasurable for us.

As directed by Don Bilotti, they all deliver grade A performances. Silva, in particular, impresses with his facility in handling multiple accents.

The action takes place in one posh living room set, beautifully designed by Denny Anderson. Dena R. Mathias' costumes are glamorous and sometimes racy — in one scene Wilson wears nothing but red underwear. It was a kick watching the audience's changing reactions as Saturday night's performance progressed. At the beginning, some people seemed distracted or drowsy but by the end, they were wide-eyed and leaning forward in their chairs.

A tip: pay attention carefully from the moment you take your seat, and be sure to read the program. Important information can be gleaned from all sorts of sources.

Cast Member
Maryann Curmi *