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Catch Me If You Can at Richmond Theatre | Review

Patrick Duffy (Daniel Corban)- Catch Me If You Can- Photo by Jack Merriman
Patrick Duffy (Daniel Corban)- Catch Me If You Can- Photo by Jack Merriman.

Even the title poses problems since there was a 2002 Steven Spielberg film with the same name, starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo Dicaprio. It told the allegedly true story of a prolific teenage con artist becoming a multimillionaire by posing as a Georgia doctor, a PanAm pilot and a Louisiana parish prosecutor.

Nothing to do with this stage play by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, except that both bear an obsession with duplicity and illusion, rather as a stick of rock bears lettering, and a title that defies you to nail the identity of the wrong ‘un. Five minutes in and you’re blowed if you know who’s telling the truth about anything – assuming that there is a truth to be told.

To muddy the waters still further, this play is itself derived in part from an earlier one called Trap For A Lonely Man by Robert Thomas. Weinstock and Gilbert have transposed the action from the French Alps to the Catskills, but they have kept the central drift of the plot, which is that just-married Daniel Corban discovers to his dismay that his new bride has walked out on him from their honeymoon suite. Change of heart? Shotgun divorce? Sudden abduction? If none of the above, then what?

Enter Catskill cop Inspector Levine, who has trouble (don’t we all?) making any sense of Daniel’s ravings. Is it possible that he is responsible for her vanishing? You can’t rule it – or anything else, for that matter – out. In comes local cleric Father Kelleher with Mrs. Elizabeth Corban, the bride in question. Except that she isn’t, at least not in the eyes of the man she is supposedly married to. He insists that she is someone other than the person he has just agreed to share his life with, and proceeds to prove this to his own satisfaction, if not to hers and the others’.

From here the comedy goes pretty noir, to the point where it is tempting to think the authors intended a satire on the institution of marriage, in which the sharing of a life is in fact a passport to mutual ignorance. While Daniel sticks to his conviction that this woman is not his wife, she reasons that he has lost his mental balance on account of her sudden but brief departure. Think, if you’re old enough, of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the US Fifties sitcom I Love Lucy, him returning with his trademark line “Honey, I’m home,” only to find a total stranger and the world turned foreign.

As the play picks up speed, it begins to feel like a deeply unreliable vehicle in a signless roadscape. Next on board is longstanding local stalwart and delicatessen proprietor Sidney, who can surely bring some down-home sanity to bear. He can’t. Then, at last, Daniel’s boss, Everett Parker, a day-saver if ever there was one. Even something of a deus ex machina. Except that this has become a world in which there is no deus and no machina in sight. All there is is proof and counterproof, involving nerdy, possibly Freudian, screeds about the compatibility, or incompatibility, between this key and that car, and so much failure to nail identity that the combatants seem to lose familiarity with their own selves. Does love save the day? Not so fast.

In this platonic orgy of mixed – and missed – messages, director Bob Tomson draws tremendous performances from Patrick Duffy, here as Daniel thoroughly distanced from the Dallas role of Bobby Ewing that he occupied for twelve years; Linda Purl as his – oh yes she is, oh no she isn’t – wife, with models of near-composure from Hugh Futcher as Sidney and Paul Lavers as Everett Parker, the (so-called) boss.

4 stars

Review by Alan Franks

Dallas legend Patrick Duffy, (The Man from Atlantis; Step By Step) Linda Purl, (Happy Days; Homeland) and Gray O’ Brien (Peak Practice; Coronation Street) head the cast in this new production.

Inspector Levine is called to a house in the remote Catskill mountains to investigate the disappearance of newly married Elizabeth Corban. In a bizarre development a woman arrives at the house claiming to be the missing Elizabeth but, instead of celebrating the reunion, her husband accuses her of being an imposter… Adapted from French Writer Robert Thomas’ play Trap for a Lonely Man, this highly entertaining mystery has been the subject of three successful screenplays.

Directed by Bob Tomson | Design by Julie Godfrey

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11 April- 16 April 2022 0844 8717615

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25 April- 30 April 2022 0333 0096690

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  • Alan Franks

    Alan Franks is one of the senior reviewers for LondonTheatre1.com, contributing regularly with reviews for London and regional shows, as well as reporting on press launches. Alan Franks was a Times feature writer for more than thirty years, specialising in the arts and interviewing many leading actors, writers and directors, including Arthur Miller, Peter Hall, Woody Allen, Judi Dench and Stephen Sondheim. He is the author of several plays, including The Mother Tongue starring Prunella Scales, and his latest novel, The Notes of Dr. Newgate, is published by Muswell Press. http://www.alanfranks.com

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