Beau Solley and Candy Thomas in “Guilty Conscience”. Photo-Little Colonel Playhouse
By Richard Levinson & William Link
Directed by Teresa Wentzel
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Richard Levinson and William Link created and wrote several successful television series and movies, including the classic Columbo, and this script, originally a made-for-television movie from 1985. In recent years, Levinson and Link’s scripts have been translated for the stage and become common choices for community theatres such as Little Colonel Playhouse. While they may be middlebrow in sensibility, they are clever enough in their twists and turns and often very funny if played well.
This one is played well enough to satisfy. The script is a slightly above average comedy about a wealthy New York lawyer, Arthur (Beau Solley), who fantasizes plotting the perfect murder – of his wife Louise (Candy Thomas). It is tempting to presume that the authors developed the idea after years of imaginatively detailed murder schemes for Columbo. Guilty Conscience feels like one of the homicide artists has been made the lead in his own story. Arthur has been unfaithful for years and his wife is in possession of knowledge of some legal misconduct on his part, so there is plenty of motive, but what lifts the story above mediocrity is a contiunual shift between reality and illusion, as Arthur’s fantasies are manifested onstage as a part of the ongoing cross-examination by the Prosecuter (a solid Anthony Chaffin) that is taking place in Arthur’s imagination.
Under the direction of Teresa Wentzel, a tight group of four actors give a snap to the dialogue that is too often missing in this company’s work. Beau Solley brings a nimble touch to Arthur, and a slightly patrician bearing that perfectly suits the characterization of a southern gentleman lawyer whose ambition and guile have brought to him Manhattan. It may not be what the script calls for exactly, but it works because Solley sells it with skill and confidence to spare. Candy Thomas as Louise and Erin Block as Jackie, Arthur’s mistress who complicates the plot appropriately, both do good work here, and the three actors find good energy and timing that is engaging and compelling. Anthony Chaffin’s Prosecutor is by design a one-dimensional figure distanced from the others, but he gives it an understated authority that is just right.
The play between what’s real and what’s not, and a non-linear progression of scenes require a viewer to look sharp but there are unexpected twists and turns enough to delight an audience. It keeps the audience off-balance just enough that it prompted a premature curtain-call level applause when the break before the final scene took a beat or two longer than it should. Guilty Conscience is a modest theatrical enterprise but Little Colonel has given it a solid reading with a light touch that promises a genial entertainment.
February 13, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 27 @ 8:00
February 16 and 23 @ 2:30
Tickets are $15 for Adults and $12 for Seniors (60+) and students. Reservations strongly recommended by calling 588-1557.
LCP does NOT accept credit cards, so please come prepared.
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt. Mercy Drive
Crestwood, KY 40014