From `Edwin Drood' Creator, a New Comedy Thriller

ACCOMPLICE Comedy thriller by Rupert Holmes. Directed by Art Wolff. Music by Mr. Holmes, performed by Deborah Grunfeld. Set design by David Jenkins. Lighting and special effects by Gregory Meeh. At the Richard Rodgers Theatre (formerly the 46th Street). THINGS are never what they seem in ``Accomplice.'' Well, hardly ever. Rupert Holmes, who won Tonys and other honors for ``The Mystery of Edwin Drood,'' has taken a bizarre assortment of comedy-thriller components and reassembled them in a crafty display of spoofery. There are gimmicks and gadgets galore, plus sufficient plot twists for a season of TV crime dramas.

With a nod to tradition, Mr. Holmes sets his tongue-in-cheek thriller-within-a-thriller in ``the moorland cottage of Derek and Janet Taylor on an English autumn afternoon in the mid-1970s.'' The author then concocts a plot of double- and triple-crosses, mixing sexual misbehavior with traditional thriller devices. Comic relief relies liberally on word plays and show-biz inside jokes.

The author springs his surprises with clockwork precision. He is constantly abetted by the clever converted mill setting (with working mill wheel), electrocutions and other special effects, Alvin Colt's provocative costumes, and Peter J. Fitzgerald's sound design.

Under Art Wolff's direction, the four actors - Jason Alexander, Pamela Brill, Michael McKean, and Natalia Nogulich - respond smartly to the artifice. But since the characters are beyond caring for, the pleasures of ``Accomplice'' remain strictly within the realm of ho-ho-hokum. Such pleasures tend to be limited.

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