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Caught in the Net – A British Comedy on Steroids at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
September 9, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

What’s The Little Theatre of Alexandria without a Brit Wit comedy in its repertoire?  For its 2013 fall season opener it has chosen Caught in the Net, a rollicking romp by the wildly successful British playwright Ray Cooney about a husband’s marital deception.  And this one’s a doozy.

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

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

John Smith (Mike Baker) has spent his marital life leading two lives with two wives – one in Streatham, the other in Wimbledon.  He has a teenage child with each.  Gavin Smith (Luke Markham) lives with his mother Barbara (Annie Ermlick), while Vicki Smith (Eliza Lore) resides with her mother Mary (Tricia O’Neill-Politte).  John races back and forth between the two families, juggling his affections like a Chinese plate twirler.  The trouble begins when the teens find each other on the Internet and uncover an odd coincidence.  Each has a father named John Leonard Smith, age 53, taxi driver.

 Luke Markham (Gavin Smith) and Eliza Lore (Vicki Smith - Photo credit Tabitha Rymal - Vaughn

Luke Markham (Gavin Smith) and Eliza Lore (Vicki Smith - Photo credit Tabitha Rymal - Vaughn

The teens become fascinated by their shared knowledge and Vicki invites Gavin to tea at her home.  John is appalled, or as he puts it, “horrified, mortified, petrified and crucified,” should they meet.  He tells Mary that Gavin must be a sexual pervert and locks Vicki in her room.  Thus begins the farcical shenanigans of John’s subterfuge and many disguises, as he tries to keep his family members from running into each other.  Little white lies lead to evasions and outright fabrications as John digs his self-imposed grave.

Mike Baker (John Smith) and Paul Tamney (Stanley Gardner) - Photo credit Tabitha Rymal - Vaughn

Mike Baker (John Smith) and Paul Tamney (Stanley Gardner) - Photo credit Tabitha Rymal - Vaughn

Mike Baker presents us with a pitch perfect portrait of the harried husband caught a web of lies.  In one particularly brilliant scene, faking a wrong number to conceal his identity from one of his wives, he puts on a Chinese accent, rattling off countless dishes at a furious clip to keep Barbara at bay.  In another phone call Baker employs a German accent all to the relentless pace of sight gags, pratfalls and a stream of hilarious one-liners.  Mary, “He’ll kill himself.”  Stanley (Paul Tamney), their longtime boarder and John’s comrade-in-tomfoolery, “That would solve all our problems!”

When Stanley’s doddering, half-blind and senile grandfather, played handily by Richard Fiske, is enlisted in the scheme to keep the beautiful Barbara at bay, he rises to the occasion.  “I have a curious urging in my loins,” he exclaims while lusting after her with arms outstretched.

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

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

Director Eleanore Tapscott, who recently returned to the DC area from New York where she directed Shakespeare and Moliere for the Westside Repertory Theatre, and her Co-Producer, Alan Wray, steer a terrific cast in this masterful comedy of sex, lies and mistaken identities.

Special mention to Set Designer, Michael deBlois, for the seven-door set lending the production a note of mass hysteria as the characters alternately chase and avoid each other across a central living room.

Through September 28th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

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