‘Caught in the Net’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria by Julia L. Exline

The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Ray Cooney’s Caught in the Net, a comedic farce that follows the chaotic evening of a London taxi driver, whose long-kept double life races towards a head-on collision! Eleanore Tapscott directs this frenzied production, full of slamming doors, scrambled stories, and circus-grade slapstick.

Mike Baker (John Smith), Annie Ermlick (Barbara Smith (Center), and Tricia O’Neill-Politte (Mary Smith). Photo by Tabitha Rymal–Vaughn.
Mike Baker (John Smith), Annie Ermlick (Barbara Smith (Center), and Tricia O’Neill-Politte (Mary Smith). Photo by Tabitha Rymal–Vaughn.

Set Designer Michael deBlois turns the stage into the interior of two different homes, which are used simultaneously. Sounds a little confusing? What appears to be one home (constructed by Dan Remmers and painted by Nancy Ramsey and Toni Sanford) is really two, as both of the families in this story appear onstage at the same time, unseen by each other even when they are using the same piece of furniture. The home (homes?) is nicely detailed, including framed artwork, potted plants, and multiple entrances. I wish I could explain the setting clearer, but truly, this is the best I can do…which means, of course, that this farce is off to a perfect start.

The stage is kept nicely lit by Lighting Designer Nancy Owens. With regards to lighting, there is nothing particularly striking or varying, which is a blessing, because the senses are overwhelmed enough during this production when it comes to sound. At any given moment, at least one of the seven entrances are being slammed or pounded on by the actors, and effects created by Designer Janice Rivera (mainly doorbells and a ringing telephone) are nearly constant. Never a quiet or dull moment for this ensemble!

Costumer Susan Boyd has a great time with this production, as her wardrobe varies from business casual and school uniforms to satin robes and bath towels (an over-sized snorkel mask finds its way in there as well). The elements of this show become more outlandish as the plot snowballs at an alarming rate.

The bedlam begins when two teenagers with the same last name (Luke Markham as Gavin Smith and Eliza Lore as a peppy Vicki Smith) find each other on the internet and begin chatting. They discover that aside from sharing a common last name, the similarities in their lives become more and more distinct, especially with regards to their father (same name, same job, same age, etc…). This is a particularly fun scene, as both of the teenagers are onstage with their mothers at the same time, and their dialogue overlaps in a fun way that links two separate conversations. Intrigued and attracted, they decide to meet up for tea…much to the dismay of their respected fathers…who is, in reality, one in the same man.

John Smith (Mike Baker) is leading a double life, married to both Barbara Smith (Annie Ermlick) and Mary Smith (Tricia O’Neill-Polittle). Panicked, John enlists his friend and lodger, Stanley Garner (Paul Tamney) for help as he spends the day desperately trying to keep his two families from meeting. Hijinks ensue, including mistaken identities, constant re-routing, and a mountain of lies that become more and more bizarre as the evening wears on. While John excels in thinking on his feet, poor bumbling Stanley is not nearly as quick-witted, and the combination leads to some pretty funny outcomes. Will the pair be able to cover John’s tracks, or is this “net” too tangled?

Luke Markham (Gavin Smith), Annie Ermlick (Barbara Smith), and Tricia O’Neill-Politte (Mary Smith). Photo by Tabitha Rymal–Vaughn.
Luke Markham (Gavin Smith), Annie Ermlick (Barbara Smith), and Tricia O’Neill-Politte (Mary Smith). Photo by Tabitha Rymal–Vaughn.

The ensemble works well together in a fast-paced frenzy that includes a lot of physical comedy, which can be a difficult task to both direct and perform. Mike Baker is terrific as John Smith, showing a great amount of stamina and energy as he races around the stage. Annie Ermlick and Tricia O’Neill-Polittle are good contrasts as John’s wives, Ermlick playing a fun, playful role in low-cut dresses opposite the easily ruffled, apron-clad O’Neill-Polittle. Paul Tamney and Luke Markham have an entertaining back-and-forth as the harried man tries and tries again to keep the teenager out of the house (yet, almost infuriatingly, he just keeps popping up). Richard Fiske adds to the already ridiculous evening with a hilarious performance as Stanley’s Dad, a forgetful old man who refuses to be left out of the fun.

Caught in the Net is an entertaining show. Suspend your disbelief for the evening and ignore the obvious questions, doubts, and skepticism that may poke at you throughout like: “Why did she react that way?” “He believed a lie that far-fetched? Really?” “How can a mere taxi-driver afford two nice homes and support two different families?” Just throw your common sense out the slamming doors because there are laughs aplenty if you do.

If you’re looking for an evening of silly entertainment with well-rounded performances, then LTA’s Caught in the Net is the place to be!

Running Time: Approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Caught in the Net plays through September 28, 2013 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria—600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or order them online.


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