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You’ll Not Outguess Guilty Conscience Mystery-thriller at Monmouth Players

By Philip Dorian

Once again, Monmouth Players is giving an airing to a musty old murder mystery. Guilty Conscience, a clever combination of thriller and whodunit, is one of only a few plays written by Richard Levinsen and William Link, who together created the TV series Columbo.

Guilty Conscience is far from a perfect play, but the way it toys with time and circumstance couldn’t be better. You’ll not read a plot summary here because telling anything is a no-no.

Lori Hohenleitner (left) and Siobhan Krier contemplate the Guilty Conscience weapon of choice.
Even a hint about who does what where with whom when and how would spoil the fun. It’s not just the twists; the authors also sprinkled in a few ‘red herrings’ with devilish skill. Trust me: even when you think you’ve figured it out, you haven’t.

Four local actors keep the tricky ins and outs on track. As a couple on the brink of divorce (that’s established right away), Robert Kern and Siobhan Krier bicker over money, sex, equitable distribution - the usual stuff. The relationship, including its bitterness, is believable. Kern and Krier are well matched.

John Sheehan appears as a…well, strange as it sounds, I can’t tell you. Suffice to say that he does appear and that he’s appropriately grave and officious. In the play’s fourth role, Lori Hohenleitner has a loose, natural quality. She’s an appealing, unself-conscious actor. (In an extended two-scene, Hohenleitner and Krier bring out the best in each other.)

Guilty Conscience is tightly co-directed by Lori Renick and Dorothy Turner. The characters parry and thrust smoothly, and the essential plot points are doled out in just the right measure. It’s also worth noting that Dean Anderson and Paul Renick are making good use of Monmouth Players new lighting equipment. Their design adds to the mood and…oops, can’t even talk about the lighting.

This is not a great play. But like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote (also Link and Levinsen), sometimes flavor is more important than nutrition, and Guilty Conscience is a tasty treat.

"Guilty Conscience" plays through Oct 26 at the Navesink Library Theatre. Performances are Fri. and Sat. at 8:15 and Sun. at 2. $15 admission ($12 for students and 60+) includes dessert beverages and home made goodies. (732) 291-9211and at www.monmouthplayers.org.