The mood is a character in Hampton Theatre Company’s spring mystery production of Bernard Slade’s “An Act of the Imagination,” which opened this weekend at the Quogue Community House.
Top-notch acting, Diana Marbury’s lush Victorian set, Sebastian Paczynski’s masterful lighting, and the Mozart-infused opening scenes conspire to create an illusion of rigid and proper decorum, which rapidly unravels in the second act as the truly wretched desires of these characters are unveiled.
The play opens in the living room and study of a house in the intellectual north London suburb of Hampstead, where Julia Putnam has just finished reading her mystery writer husband Arthur’s first romance manuscript, a puzzlement, since their love life is anything but romantic.
And that’s where the decorum begins to break down, in an onion of affairs wrapped inside murder mysteries, thunderclaps and Beethoven, in a bloody trail through the heath on the outskirts of town.
There’s a play-within-a-play in this show, and it’s fitting that the play is “Gas Light,” because by the time you are through watching, you will likely question your sanity.
This is the first of director Edward A. Brennan’s productions that I’ve seen at HTC, but as a veteran actor of this company, he seems to have coaxed the best out of this cast of both fellow HTC regulars and several newcomers who add a lot to this production. Every performance here was rock solid.
Rebecca Edana, who most recently appeared as speechwriter Clarice Bernstein in last fall’s HTC production of “November,” is horridly devious and quite surprising in her role as Julia Putnam. Once again, she floored me with the far range from her last role at HTC.
Matthew Conlon, whom you may have last seen as presidential crony Archer Brown in “November,” is delightfully daft (or is he really?) as Arthur Putnam, who accepts the plot that’s forced upon him with sheepish shrugs and frequent trips to his sideboard bar.
Amanda Griemsmann, who last appeared as Becky in HTC’s winter production of “4000 Miles,” comes off as sweet and daft as Arthur Putnam’s editor, Holly. But her penchant for unraveling mysteries only further deepens the intrigue here.
Jesse Pimpinella, who plays Arthur Putnam’s scheming son Simon, first comes off as a spoiled young pugilist, but he is a really horrid villain. I hope he comes back and scares Quogue audiences some more.
The two other HTC debuts, Meggie Doyle as fleeting flirt Brenda Simmons and James M. Lotito as kind-hearted and dutiful Sgt. Burchitt, add a crazy pizzaz and a steady pace to this play, respectively. I hope they come back. They were thoroughly delightful.
There is some gunfire in this play, so please, don’t be scared…..
“An Act of the Imagination” runs at the Quogue Community Hall through April 9, with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7, Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2:30. An additional matinee is scheduled for Saturday, April 8, at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors over 65, $15 for adults under 35 and $10 for students, and are available online at hamptontheatre.org or at Ovation Tix at 1.866.811.4111.