LENOX -- Around the community table in Shakespeare & Company's Green Room (actually painted shades of peach glow and armor gray), evasion ensued.
"It's a play within a play within a play -- but you're sworn to secrecy."
"An English thriller with a lot of twists."
"You can't even divulge that."
"People play multiple roles."
"I think we can say that."
"I don't know what she's going to write about it."
"It could be a very short article."
"I hear there's going to be new play at Shakespeare & Company ..."
With the story line strictly under wraps, and even uncertainty as to whether Jonathan Croy or Kevin Coleman would join the production, the conversation was buoyant if bewildering.
Actors usually eager to describe their roles avoided sharing any detail that might reveal the intricate plot twists of Rupert Holmes' comedic thriller "Accomplice," which begins previews in the Lenox company's Bernstein Theatre on Saturday and runs through Nov. 10.
Set in an elaborate country house designed by Patrick Brennan, at first glance, "Accomplice" involves a woman and her lover plotting to murder her stuffy husband.
"What you think you're seeing and what's really going on are two different things," cautioned director Stephen Rothman. He has directed the "sexy British chiller thriller with laughs," as he calls it, twice before. His son, Will "Banno" Rothman, is assistant director.
"It is a brilliant script. It won the Edgar award which is the Oscar of mystery plays," he said. "It captures a humor that's on a very high level."
A prolific British-born playwright and singer-songwriter, Holmes moved to the United States as a child. Following his chart-topping "Pina Colada Song," he wrote "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," based on Charles Dickens' unfinished novel, winning a Tony and breaking new ground with his complex approach to the mystery genre, just as Agatha Christie had done before him. "Accomplice" premiered in 1990.
At Shakespeare & Company, Rothman has reunited Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jason Asprey and Josh Aaron McCabe, his cast from last summer's dramatic comedy "Parasite Drag," in their third play together in the past year.
Newcomer Annie Considine, fresh from playing Puck in Shakespeare & Company's education tour of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and reminiscent of a young Jodie Foster, joins the company veterans for her first professional Equity role.
"I knew she would be funny, sexy and smart, and could take on these three and be equal to them," Rothman explained. "She's really knocking it out of the park."
A recent University of Chicago graduate, Considine grew up in Lenox and took part in Shakespeare & Company's Fall Festival. Acting in "Accomplice," she said, is "very surreal, sort of like a weird pipe dream of mine since high school."
"I'd never really thought of myself as a comedic actress until I got to do Puck," she said. "Now this whole new world has opened up in front of me and I love it."
One of the great challenges in "Accomplice" is making sure the cast is clear about how the tricks of the play work, beyond just the stage gags, Rothman said.
"It just keeps peeling away the onion," Asprey observed. "It's very clever that way."
Keeping the layers in their rightful place is critical to the play's success, Aspenlieder agreed.
"Everything is connected -- everything we're playing is really happening, 100 percent true -- or it doesn't work," she said.
"People associate multiple roles at Shakespeare & Company with quick change, silly shows," McCabe said. "This isn't that. We are playing multiple characters, but it doesn't mean it's the same physical zaniness. There won't necessarily be breakaway kilts," he quipped.
"This is my favorite kind of comedy," Asprey said. "I love that kind of off-the-cuff dry wit, high in intelligence. I just can't get enough of that."
While rehearsing "Accomplice," Aspenlieder had the added challenge of performing with company founder Tina Packer in the acclaimed, visceral "Beauty Queen of Leenane."
"When I come here, it's a relief to let go of the darkness from that play," she said. "I am buoyed by these rehearsals."
Rothman encourages "Accomplice" audiences to return and see it again.
"You'd see where all the pieces were put in front of you that you won't get the first time," he said.
"It's such a great script, it's so much fun ..." Considine catches herself. "But I can't tell you anything."
If you go ...
When: Saturday through Nov. 10
Where: Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox
Information: (413) 637-3353