“Caught in the Net”
Through Feb. 21. Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 17 only) at 2:30 p.m. $18-$33. Theatre in the Square, 11 Whitlock Ave. in Marietta. 770-422-8369. theatreinthesquare.com.
Bottom line: Mindless frivolity.
By Bert Osborne
It should come as no surprise that there are as many characters on display in Ray Cooney’s “Caught in the Net” as there are doors lining the boundaries of John Thigpen’s scenic design for Theatre in the Square’s staging of the British farce. Besides the ridiculous plot and frenzied pace, one of the prerequisites of the genre involves elaborately choreographed entrances and exits, typically punctuated by the slamming of doors.
What initially appears to be set in the living room of a modest London home actually takes place in two different houses — often simultaneously. In the play’s clever opening scene, this woman (Holly Stevenson) enters from one side, that woman (Wendy Fulton-Adams) from the other, and they sit on opposite ends of a sofa, having overlapping conversations with their respective kids (Kate Dorrough, Nick Arapoglou).
For a while, it’s fun trying to keep track of which character came in through which door, and exactly where we are at any given time. As if it really matters. Before long, you’re better off merely surrendering to the inherent silliness of the show. It isn’t as though another prerequisite of the genre were that the story make logical or realistic sense.
Those two teens cross paths online, and they’re so amazed by the coincidence that their fathers share the same name and profession that they arrange to meet in person. Dad (Allan Edwards) is one and the same, of course, a blustery bigamist who goes to extreme measures to maintain his secret double lives — recruiting his dim-witted best friend (Christopher Ekholm) as a hapless accomplice.
True to form, the play is fueled by far-fetched situations, including cases of mistaken identity and lots of sexual innuendo, usually of a gay variety (guys in compromising positions just as one of the wives walks into the room). Notwithstanding the farcical circumstances, the late addition of a dotty old man (Marshall Marden) into the mix seems like overkill.
Between all the rampant physical shtick and rapid-fire repartee, timing is of the essence. Co-directed by Alan Kilpatrick and Jessica Phelps West, the Square production is energetically performed by an agreeable ensemble of actors (despite their variable accents).
A little of this high-strung nonsense can go a long way, depending on your affinity for such material. To call the show fairly refreshing is not to say it’s very fresh. According to the program, the setting is “the present,” but there’s a dated, retro feel to the whole affair, in which even the cellphones ring a refrain from “What’s New, Pussycat?”
As it happens with “Caught in the Net,” not every archetypal British farce holds up quite as sturdily as the incumbent architecture of its set.