Two Ray Cooney farces double the trouble at the Golden Apple.
By Kay Kipling
When it comes to contemporary, knockabout British farce, Ray Cooney is the man with the reputation for bringing in the crowds and making them laugh. So it’s understandable that the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre would try a one-two punch during the slower early fall season with rotating productions of Cooney’s Run for Your Wife and Caught in the Net.
The first is a tried-and-true warhorse, the tale of a London cab driver desperately trying to hide the fact that he has two wives at once, in different parts of the city. The second is a sequel of sorts (although you don’t need to see the shows in order to get the gist of things) that finds that same cabbie, John Smith, still attempting to protect his secret, this time from his kids as well as his wives.
Some of the actors appear in both productions, and for the most part, they don’t look much different 17 years apart. (Ernest Weldon as Smith does acquire a sheen of gray hair.) While the more recent show, Caught in the Net, offers an update in technology concerning computers and the ever-important back-and-forth phone calls, it still relies on a lot of door slamming and banging, and the attitudes of the characters toward marriage, sex and bigamy haven’t changed much.
Caught does offer the novelty of the new, since it’s never been seen before locally. It also offers some youth, in the faces of Geena M. Ravella as Vicki and Ryan Lebar and Colton Herschberger (who will both play the role of young Gavin Smith during the show’s run). And it presents a classic British character in “Dad” (Richard LeVene in a nice turn), the brightly attired but slightly senile father of Smith’s upstairs neighbor, Stanley Gardner (Cliff Roles).
In fact, it’s Gardner/Roles who gets much of the good comedy action in Caught. Here as in Run for Your Wife, he’s the innocent bystander who gets tangled in Smith’s web of lies, which get increasingly stranger and less believable. And Roles has fun with becoming an ever more ridiculous figure during the proceedings.
On the nights I attended the shows, both Weldon and Roles occasionally had some line troubles (in Run for Your Wife, Roles and Berry Ayers as a policemen had one of those Tim Conway/Harvey Korman moments from the old Carol Burnett Show, where they pretty much broke down laughing at each other). In general, though, the cast does pretty well with all the nonsense, especially Leigh Anne Wuest, the much put-upon Smith wife No. 1, whose threshold of frustration grows quite convincingly.
The pacing needs to pick up in both productions, however. These shows have to whip right along to keep the audience too dizzy for even a moment’s yawn; and at this point in the run (Caught plays through Nov. 29, Run through Nov. 27), things still aren’t tight enough to maximize the laughs; there’s too much dead air.
For tickets to either show, go to thegoldeapple.com or call 366-5454.