Taking a page from Alan Ayckbourn’s playbook, Caught in the Net combines the homes of two families on one set. The color scheme divides the back wall of the set, where each family has its own front door, but everything else is shared.
This setup is appropriate for Ray Cooney’s comedy about a man trying to maintain two families without either finding out about the other.
John Leonard Smith’s carefully constructed world starts to crumble when teen Gavin (Sam Leichter), son of Barbara (Susan Wefel); and Vicki (Kate Hopkins), daughter of Mary (Monika McDole), meet online and discover remarkable similarities between their fathers — both are 43-year-old taxi drivers named John Leonard Smith. The kids are determined to meet; John (Zoran Kovcic) is equally intent on stopping them.
This is the cue for seven doors to start slamming, fictions to start flying and laughs to start pouring out of the audience. And since Cooney, whose Run for Your Wife played for years on the West End, knows his way around a farce, that’s just what happens.
The action unfolds with ever-more-ludicrous attempts by John and lodger Stanley Gardner to avert the impending meeting and its inevitable consequences. There is an enjoyable level of sophistication of timing, deception and guile here that ensures the laughs keep coming.
John puts Stanley into the most bizarre and ridiculous circumstances in a bid to stop his two children from meeting up and uncovering the huge secret. The artful lodger (Paul Kuhn) has known about John’s duplicity all along. He lives with John, Vicki and Mary, and is just trying to get away to pick up his father for a holiday. But John pleads for help, and Stanley finds himself spinning more and more far-fetched lies to help protect his friend. The entire predicament is just one big fib from start to finish.
Veteran Hedgerow performer Kovcic is at his comic best, whimpering one moment, raging the next and suffering indelicate situations in between.
The solid cast includes Sam Leichter from St. Joseph’s Prep and Kate Hopkins, a junior at the Friends Select School, making her Hedgerow Theatre debut. Leichter, who appeared in Hedgerow’s comedy last summer, has vastly improved his stage presence. Matched with Hopkins, they make a delightful pair — natural, engaging and funny.
Perfectly cast in the roles of the confused wives are Hedgerow veteran Wefel and McDole. Wefel, who is equally successful in drama or comedy, shares her enthusiasm for the role with McDole, who comfortably holds up her end of the bigamy. Daniel Sigmund totters in at the start of Act Two as Stanley’s unsteady, rather dotty father.
Cathie Miglionico does commendable work in the costume department and director Jared Reed’s knowing hand can be felt throughout the proceedings — first with his casting and ultimately in the tempo.
Caught in the Net
64 Rose Valley Road, Media
Through Aug. 31
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $22 Saturday, $19 Friday and Sunday, with $2 discounts for seniors; students, $10