Writers: Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert
Director: Bob Tomson
You could be forgiven for confusing Catch Me If You Can for the 2002 film with the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio: however, this show is a very different beast. This play is a thriller that originally debuted on Broadway in 1965. Based on a French play by Robert Thomas, this American adaptation is written by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, best known for their collaboration on How to Succeed in Business.
It’s a small ensemble show with just eight actors who pull together to present a highly convoluted and deeply thrilling plot. The story follows a police investigation after Elizabeth Corban has disappeared on her honeymoon and her newlywed husband, Daniel Corban, is desperate for the police to find her. Several days after her disappearance, Daniel is visited by a local priest, Father Kelleher, who brings home Daniel’s wife. Daniel, however, is convinced that this woman is an imposter, hell-bent on torturing him and making him appear unhinged.
But what is the truth?
Weinstock and Gilbert’s script is intricately written and brings with it twist after twist, culminating in an extremely well thought out and humorous climax. The writing punches, always leaving you guessing and, coupled with excellent direction from Bob Tomson, the show feels like a well put together TV sitcom – indeed, the classical overture designed by Matthew Bugg accompanying the reveal of Julie Godfrey’s meticulously thought-out Alpine-inspired set does feel very much like a TV opening scene and greets the audience with warmth and familiarity as the action picks up mid-crisis: Elizabeth has already disappeared, and Daniel is making his umpteenth call to the local police department. The presentation feels familiar and formulaic, immediately putting the audience at ease.
Cast in the leading role is Dallas legend, Patrick Duffy. Like many TV actors, he brings a somewhat quieter presence to the stage. He comes across well as the reticent, concerned husband turned gaslit would–be fraud victim. He brings with him a gentle physicality and a soft vocal style that immediately jars with the constant assertions from every other actor on set that he is fizzing and excitable. Duffy does an excellent job as he bumbles from scene to scene and has quite the knack for subtle comedy.
On press night, the sound from Duffy’s mic was a little patchy in places which was a real shame as it distracted a little as you strained to hear what was being said. Unfortunate mic issues aside, Duffy gives us some fantastic moments, a particular highlight being a physical comedy sequence, pertaining to a whiskey that he believes to have been spiked. He quickly passes the drink to Father Kelleher (Ben Nealon) who responds with a physicality that is equally funny.
There is a strong onstage partnership between Duffy and Linda Purl, who plays Elizabeth Corban. Duffy’s subtleties bounce powerfully off Purl’s Machiavellian characterisation. As the standout performer of the evening, Purl commands the stage with gravitas. From the moment she walks onto the stage she injects life and energy into the show. Her highly embroidered performance is the lynchpin of the entire production. Her demeanour slips and slides dependent upon who she is talking to from the sickly-sweet Stepford wife to the dastardly, despicable viper that Daniel asserts she is. Purl, in essence, plays multiple roles in just this one character and expertly shifts her physicality and vocal tone to suit the conversation.
Completing the trio of protagonists is Inspector Levine (Gray O’Brien) who gives a fantastically flippant performance. Clearly pulling references from every 1980’s cop show, he struts around the stage between the newlyweds taking each story in turn whilst simultaneously dropping wisecracks, leaving the audience in stitches. There is good energy between the three leads, and it trickles through the whole production.
This show represents a solid thriller. It is riveting, perplexing and genuinely funny, led by an excellent cast. Any amateur sleuth will love the guessing game that is Catch Me If You Can and as such, they should catch it before it runs out of town.
Runs Until 9 April 2022 and on tour