Thursday, February 24, 2022

Catch Me If You Can – a gentle comedy whodunnit with uneven performances (Grand Opera House until Saturday 26 February)

They had an argument. But who is telling the truth? The honeymooning husband Danny who claims the woman brought back to his chalet by the police is not his wife? Or Elizabeth who says her advertising executive husband has under a lot of stress, argumentative, and needs a good night’s sleep?

Catskills’ local cop Inspector Levine (Gray O’Brien) is pulled this way and that during Labor Day weekend as a succession of local characters waltz through the never-locked front door and heap further confusion on top of the shaky factual foundations.

Patrick Duffy and Linda Purl play Daniel and Elizabeth Corban, with Danny showing a loose grip on reality, and Elizabeth gradually slipping her mask and revealing that all is not as she pretends once the long arm of the law is out of earshot.

Catch Me If You Can is a very gentle comedy whodunnit which teeters on the brink of becoming a slow-moving farce. But like some its characters, the show struggles to commit. The story is neatly plotted, though many of the twists and turns stretch credibility even in a sleepy corner of a 1960’s New York State holiday resort. (It’s based on a French play Trap For a Lonely Man by Robert Thomas rather than on the the popular con artist film with which it shares a name.)

Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert’s script has some great one-liners. The action relies heavily on characters walking in and out of other rooms at the most dramatically perfect moments. Duplicity is ever-present, but it doesn’t make Catch Me If You Can profound. There are no hidden metaphors for life, or any sense of allegory. So this sitcom has to sell itself purely on entertainment value and the production doesn’t ever really justify why this script deserves to have been taken off the shelf and dusted down for such a high profile tour.

The final twist is a pleasing end to what has by that point become a rather mundane production. The second act also begins with Danny/Duffy walking out of a bedroom looking for all the world like he’s just out of the shower! If only the audience had been dreaming …

While he’s the star (commercial) attraction for this Bill Kenwright touring production, the Dallas veteran Duffy is outacted by the rest of the cast. It’s not just his lack of vocal projection – he’s the only cast member to be micced – but it’s also his lack of dynamic range. Despite being accused of being agitated, the character of Danny sways between lethargy and weariness, rarely expressing proper anger despite the trying circumstances in which he finds himself.

Hugh Futcher makes a great impression in his handful of scenes as Sidney, the local sandwich and coffee merchant – it’s a real shame to see him released from the plot – while Ben Nealon’s Father Kelleher reeks of ambiguity and intrigue from the first moment he steps inside the front door of the mountain chalet. Linda Purl’s Elizabeth is quite the femme fatale, hoodwinking the local police and the play’s audience.

Catch Me If You Can opened in Windsor for two weeks before heading to Belfast to start its UK tour. Covid had already disrupted some of the Windsor performances, and then stormy weather delayed the arrival of the set at the Grand Opera House.

By all accounts, audiences were thrilled when the two leads (Duffy and Purl, partners in real life) staged a rehearsed reading of A R Gurney’s 1988 play Love Letters on Monday and Tuesday evening. (Bill Kenwright is bringing Love Letters to the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket from May.)

By Wednesday evening, the set had been constructed, but the sound effects still weren’t fully working when the curtail went up on Catch Me If You Can. Along with the echo/reverb on Duffy’s radio mic, that should all be easily fixed before the next performance. However, it does feel a lesser quality production than you’d expect from the company that has recently toured Evita, Heathers and Saturday Night Fever.

Ultimately, the on-stage whodunnit is a bit of a red herring. The real mystery is why this particular play deserved to be revived, and whether the production can make it all the way to Glasgow in June.

Catch Me If You Can continues at the Grand Opera House until Saturday 25 February.

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APKfun said...

it is worth watching this many times.
Sometimes, I have seen some from apps of and this is convenient on this pandemic situation.

Unknown said...

Catch me if you can lacks real feeling and conviction. All credit to the principals on keeping the script going. A lotta lines! I've witnessed more acting conviction in some school plays. The plot suspense works but it's just ok. I have to agree with others that the sandwich man was a welcome diversion and the moose is a star with more stage presence than the red head

Edwin H , Moira said...

Beg to differ.. great evening's entertainment. The sound issues (e.g. the phone that rang sometimes, if it was in the mood and the silence that preceded an arrival by car) added to the pleasant atmosphere and light heartedness. The twist ending pleased and we in the audience showed our appre ciation with the unforced standing ovation. Well done, all!

Unknown said...

Sound volume was awful missed a lot of the dialogue. Asked other people. Same opinion.pity