BWW Reviews: CAUGHT IN THE NET Catches Out-Loud Laughs at Dutch Apple
In 1983, British playwright and king of farces, Ray Cooney, gave the world RUN FOR YOUR WIFE, the absorbing story of taxi driver John Smith and his domestic difficulties. His problems were twice as big as most men's, for he was maintaining two separate families in different neighborhoods in London. RUN FOR YOUR WIFE is still the West End's longest-running comedy (it takes a lot to overtake Agatha Christie, who has both dead bodies and a long head start in THE MOUSETRAP),and with good reason - it's both incredibly funny and stocked with characters about whom the audience can actually care. It's because it's possible to care about Smith, his wife Barbara, his other wife Mary, and somehow, even his friend and long-term tenant, Stanley, that in 2001 Cooney gave the world the sequel to that classic in CAUGHT IN THE NET.
The net, of course, is the one of Smith's own devising as his carefully laid plans come to a crisis because of that other net, the Internet. It's the Internet that makes meeting and dating more people than ever a possibility, and it seems that Smith has a child to each of his wives - one teen boy, one teen girl, two computers... and now, one pair of would-be daters amused to discover that each one has a father who's a taxi driver named John Smith. As both of them ask their respective mothers, what are the chances? Gavin and Vicki would love to meet up. And then each of their mothers utters those classic words of tragedy, "ask your father". Both are dismayed to discover that each of them has a mean father who wants to stifle them before they can even meet their new friend once. What are the chances of that?
At Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, the chances are pretty high. RUN FOR YOUR WIFE was here last season, but it's not necessary to have seen it to understand what's going on, and just why Smith is so panicked that he needs his old buddy Stanley to help him stop a family and genetic crisis. Victor Legaretta, the Prather stable's own king of farce and Ray Cooney expert (who also directs once again) is back as John Smith, perhaps his most frequent role, and Erik Hogan is once again Stanley Gardner, Smith's demented best friend. They've both played Cooney's terrible twosome often enough to inhabit the parts naturally, and that familiarity both with the parts and with each other comes through; it's a pleasure to see them at work in these parts.
Great as Legaretta is, though, it's an even greater pleasure to see Hogan, whose face and perhaps entire body are made of rubber, giving Stanley his all. His facility with physical comedy, and with doing it rapid-fire, is particularly impressive, and he makes Stanley's total lunacy a thing of beauty to watch. In tandem with Legaretta's Smith, the comic turns are so impressive as to make the interruptions of little things like other characters, and keeping the plot going, almost distressing - these two could be watched for hours, just by themselves.
Barbara and Mary Smith, Smith's long-suffering wives-who-have-no-clue-yet, are played by Caitlin Newman and by Shannon Connolly with all of the appropriate motherliness, and bafflement at their husband, that could be asked for. Gavin and Vicki, the star-crossed teen potential lovers, are played by Christopher Brent and Rachael Endrizzi, with Gavin particularly impressive as the alt-indie-rock son of freakish hair and outlandish makeup whose ridiculous (to a parent) costume hides an interior of pure sweetness and human concern.
There are all of the expected, and unexpected, pitfalls and pratfalls of a good Cooney farce here, as well as some twists that even those well familiar with RUN FOR YOUR WIFE just may not see coming, and it's those twists that contribute to what is perhaps the single funniest ending of any of Ray Cooney's plays.
Eric Cover as Stanley's geriatric, hearing-impaired, walking-impaired, and addlepated father - Stanley's brains may run in his family - is also a delight. The Gardners were planning to take a beach vacation when Smith's crisis befell, and dear dad is absolutely convinced he's at the beach hotel at Smith's one house, with disastrously funny results.Nothing is sacred here except laughs - while it's not a bedroom farce, the plot should indicate that this one isn't for the easily offended of any stripe. The language is clean enough but the whole situation - and the ones people in the story line think they are seeing - is definitely risqué. Sexual situations and innuendoes abound, some more taboo than others, so consider that if these sorts of things are issues for you. Otherwise, prepare to laugh out loud, especially at the ending.
At Dutch Apple through March 22. Call 717-898-1900 or visit www.dutchapple.com for tickets.