⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A clever twist on the classic whodunnit
Note: This review is for the Catch Me If You Can UK Tour 2022. It’s useful to note that this play is not associated with the 2002 Steven Spielberg film of the same name.
Originally based on a French play by Robert Thomas, this American version was written by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert that debuted on Broadway in 1965. The UK tour is produced by the renowned Bill Kenwright.
Inspector Levine (Gray O’Brien) is called to a house in the remote Catskill mountains to investigate the disappearance of newly married Elizabeth Corban. In a bizarre development a woman (Linda Purl) arrives at the house claiming to be the missing Elizabeth but, instead of celebrating the reunion, her husband Daniel (Dallas legend Patrick Duffy) claims that she is an imposter.
Accompanied on stage by local priest Father Kelleher (Ben Nealon), local deli owner Sidney (Hugh Futcher), Daniel’s boss Everett Parker (Paul Lavers) and his wife Mrs Parker (Chloe Zeitounian), the audience is taken through a continuous series of surprising and clever twists and turns.
A small and intimate cast, most with an incredible and impressive wealth of experience, each bring their individual flair to the stage. Patrick Duffy is sweet, charming and funny in the role of Daniel, although I wonder if he was perhaps at times he was a little too nice in the role of a man who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the situation he finds himself. Linda Purl is excellent as Elizabeth, being able to shift her tone and mannerisms back and forth with ease in what is quite a demanding physical role, and she brings a fantastic energy to the stage. Without giving too much away, there was a level of subtlety in her changing characterisation that she demonstrated in her costume too – something as simple as unbuttoning her jacket when her tone became darker was clever and effective. The stand out performer of the show is indeed Gray O’Brien, who commands the stage in the role of the weary inspector with a dry sense of humour and a thick New York accent. There’s a wonderful chemistry between the three, with O’Brien as the lynchpin in suggesting how the audience should feel about the unfolding revelations as the play progresses.
Ben Nealon also performs brilliantly alongside Linda in the role of Father Kelleher. Similarly, he is able to switch the tone of his character with ease, although there was room for more menace. Much of the comedic moments in the second act is given by legend Hugh Futcher as the eccentric Sidney. From talking to a moose head to delivering laugh-out-loud one-liners, the adorable Sidney is cleverly interwoven into the plot in a way that left me wishing he had more stage time – he was simply a joy to watch.
There is certainly a Mad Men 1960’s feel to the play, and the continuous dialogue and movement is slick, fast-paced and well-performed on a simple and static log cabin set, with some lighting and sound effects used in specific moments to represent events happening outdoors.
Catch Me If You Can is a clever twist on the classic ‘whodunnit,’ leaving the audience guessing right up until the very end.
Photo credits: Jack Merriman