By Dave Rabjohn
Farce holds a special place in the universe of live theatre: irreverent, saucy, bold, and logic-challenging. Ray Cooney has been a master of farce for many years and has produced dozens of classics including the very successful Run for Your Wife. Caught in the Net is a sequel that takes place years later as John Smith continues his double life with the complication now of having teenage children with each of his wives. A vibrant new production has recently opened at Scarborough Village Theatre by the Scarborough Players. It is a fun, wild roller coaster that checks all the boxes of farce criteria.
John Smith does not exactly live a double life – his two lives are intertwined in a number of ways and now especially with his two teenagers who wish to meet. The children meet online and are amazed that they have so many things in common – their meeting would be a disaster for the father, John. The set design, by Anthony Jones, cleverly reflects this duality with blending of the two halves of the stage. Colours and paint bleed together from one side to the other and a central staircase is common for both homes. The lighting, by David Buffham, also blends the two homes into a common acting space for the conflicts to come.
Two performances stood out. Clive Lacey plays Stanley Gardner, John’s best friend who tries desperately to help keep the secret of John’s two wives from being discovered especially as the two naïve teenagers seek each other for some potential romantic awkwardness. Mr. Lacey is the true face of farce- Hawaiian shirt, knocking knees, thrashing arms and befuddled, popping eyes. He carries the load from raucous physical humour to tongue-defying banter that resists logic. His performance also highlighted a bright accent that reflects his colourful personality. Some of the accents in the cast were uneven, but Mr. Lacey’s was convincing and consistent.
The other stand out was Ross Cumming playing, with remarkable acting maturity, the smooth teenage son. Gavin Smith is the ultra-contrast to the chaos that surrounds him. He is calm and unflappable – an island in the midst of the Smith family chaos. Mr. Cumming moves and speaks with convincing reservation, a difficult feat while fellow actors are frantically spinning. Highlights include scenes with Stanley where the two actors play off each other with outstanding effect. Mr. Cumming’s accent is relaxed and convincing, partly attributable to his recent move from the U.K.
Sean Ballantyne plays the maniacal husband, John Smith, with effective feigned innocence and all the required acrobatic skills. The two wives, played by Eugenia De Jong and Renee Cullen stood out as the doey-eyed naïve victims. This changes, though, especially with Ms. Cullen as she asserts herself in the second act with a slow-brewing anger that finally boils into murderous rage – eyes darting and knives flashing. Laura Dumitrache, a freshman actor, does a fine job as the defiant young daughter, while Jeremy Henson provides further chaos with his portrayal of the daft dad. A highlight is his opening ascent of the staircase that convincingly fits his character and his mood.
Meg Gibson, as director, met the challenge of harnessing and focusing Ray Cooney’s dervish-like plot and dialogue. Equally challenged was stage manager Wendy Miller who deftly orchestrates seven doors and a myriad of entrances and exits. Sometimes the suspension of disbelief is uncomfortably stretched by the playwright. Unless it is common in the suburbs of London, the idea of bedroom doors with locks on the outside seems like a manipulative plot tool. Overall, though, Ray Cooney always delivers an evening of raucous fun and this company has risen to the occasion. The cast enthusiastically embraces this high energy project and the audience benefits with an evening of delightful diversion.
‘Caught in the Net’ continues through April 20. Tickets at the website.
with edit - Wed Apr 10 2019