by Hugh Hunter
Now running at Playcrafters of Skippack, “Caught in the Net” (2001) by Ray Cooney is the sequel to his hit comedy “Run for your Wife” (1983), in which bigamist John Smith succeeded in keeping his two wives ignorant of each other.
It is now 18 years later, and John has a teenage child from each marriage. The kids encounter each other while surfing the Internet and are curious as to why their fathers have so much in common. When they agree to meet, John is terrified his bigamy will come to light.
British-born director Gay Hoyle uses a huge set with six broadly visible doors, and with all the frenzied madcap in “Caught” she needs each one. (In program notes Hoyle vehemently denies rumors that she is on the lam from UK tax collectors.)
Playing the teenagers, Zane Rutter and Erin Tiffany look good on stage, though young Zane needs to keep a straight face. The two wives, Barbara Smith (Laura Shapella) and Mary Smith (Lisa Gazzillo), are in various states of comic distress all night. Anthony Marsala shines as the con artist husband. With his frantic bearing, Marsala makes you believe that John Smith actually has the guile and crazy energy to have kept his bigamy stunt going for 18 years.
Eric Rupp stars as Stanley, John’s best friend. A reluctant accomplice and something of a dimwit, Stanley is often in a guilty state of suspended motion, but he still manages to come up with creative whoppers. He is a kind of moron-genius.
The plot is simply John’s need to keep his secret life secret. But the show holds your interest as lies pile up in the fashion of a nonsense game. In act two Dad (Ed Rutter) shows up, a randy old man who layers in more bawdy confusion.
Is there some deeper meaning here? Director Hoyle comments (or is she joking) that “Caught” subtly invokes the morality of the “Seven Deadly Sins.” But that’s a bit of a stretch given how burlesque these characters are. There may be other meanings.
A lot has happened since 1983. Computers and cell phones are now ubiquitous. We see that in “Caught,” and as personal and public domains have conflated, it is harder for John (or anyone else) to keep a secret.
There is also an absurdist note to “Caught.” Traditional farce offered elaborate plots which played themselves out in a context of shared values. Modern farce likes to frolic in the debris of shattered customs. Bigamy? What’s the big deal, “Caught” seems to say.
But enough of this “meaning” talk! “Caught” relates mostly to England’s over-the-top comedy tradition; think “Benny Hill” or “Monty Python.” Just put yourself in the right mood and sit back to enjoy a funny show.
Playcrafters of Skippack is located at Store Road off of Route 73 in Skippack. “Caught in the Net” will run through July 13. Reservations at 610-584-4005.
Want to support the Local? Join the Chestnut Hill Community Association. Membership helps fund what we do. Join today.