downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 51 | May 4 -10, 2007

Melissa Stern

Under cover: Revealing too much about “Accomplice: New York” would spoil its surprises.

Sopranos-style street theater

By Nicole Davis and Michael Didovic

It all begins with a phone call. “I need to tell you something. Are you alone?” a man asks. His accent is Mafioso Italian, his tone urgent, and for a second he has you — until you realize it’s one of your friends playing a prank. “Here’s what I need you to do — are you sure you’re alone?” His instructions involve a meeting point near a boat, but not on a boat. OK, you think, maybe this isn’t your friend. Then he tells you to burn the instructions, and to eat the ashes just in case “they” find them, which is when it dawns on you: This definitely is not your friend. This is that show you signed up for, “Accomplice NY.”

Revealing too much about this interactive street performance — think schmaltzy dinner theater meets scavenger hunt — would spoil its surprises. But without giving too much away, “Accomplice: New York” is a chance to join a criminal plot. A gangster and his cronies are all fleeing New York City, and since fraternizing with past felons in public is illegal, you and the other audience members who agreed (ok, paid) to be an accomplice to these shady characters must find them all and send them on their getaway. Each one you meet offers a clue as to where to find the next cohort, and for three hours you wander the streets of Lower Manhattan, going from park benches to the private rooms of restaurants looking for these actors, all the time wondering who is ‘in’ on the act. When a Chinese woman tried to interest us in a counterfeit Coach bag, for instance, we actually considered it, thinking she was part of the show.

The real performers include a blind man, a crazy bum, an Eastern European Borat type, the Boss’s girl, and a few other Italian wise guys. All are broadly drawn caricatures with stock jokes at the ready, though some were more capable of riffing than others. (James Feuer, the first actor who met us, was able to segue swiftly from doing time upstate to having us sign release forms — an impressive feat.)

But one of the show’s main draws is actually spending time on your own. The tour gave us a great excuse to spend the day on foot, making our way from the crowded South Street Seaport, and then slowly north to Chinatown and Little Italy. It also gave us the opportunity to meet an eclectic group of people who were just as game for an adventure. Besides our Brooklyn contingent, there were two out-of-town men in for a wedding, two middle-aged lesbians from Queens, and a couple from Jersey named Mike and Carol (“Just like the Brady Bunch!” she quipped).

Twenty minutes into the show, we were all stumped on the same clue, the more competitive among us growing anxious as our fellow accomplices took their time trying to crack the code. Collaborating with complete strangers is something you never have to deal with in live theater, and it’s one part of “Accomplice: New York” that will always remain surprising. In our case, the one woman who played a team sport in our group was not exactly a team player.

But after that one nail-biting clue, the rest were practically hand-fed to us. On the couple of instances where we didn’t get it immediately, the characters were all too ready to step in and point us in the right direction. This didn’t seem necessary since they provided us with a phone number at the beginning in case of any snafus. (Perhaps the creators, who already have spin offs in the works for San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, should also develop “Accomplice: The Mensa Version.”)

Thankfully, everyone we encountered was amusing and at times laugh-out-loud funny, especially the first and the last performers. And some of the destinations were aptly chosen, particularly the ones where we could quench our thirsts. Still, for $50, we can think of better forms of entertainment on a beautiful day — like a self-guided tour of downtown, for one. Though it’s possible we’re just jaded. For your out-of-town, Sopranos-loving cousin, this could be one of those “only in New York” experiences.


Accomplice: New York. Created by Tom Salamon and Betsy Salamon-Sufott. Starting James Feuer, Joseph Tomasini, Billy Beyrer, Joe Luongo, Brendan Irving, Lauren Potter, and John Cannatella. Groups of eight begin “tour” every half hour between 1 and 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 212-209-3370; accompliceny.com.





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