‘Catch Me If You Can’
Cambridge Arts Theatre
23rd May 2022
Based on the French play ‘Trap For A Lonely Man’ by Robert Thomas, a new production of ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (sadly not the Broadway musical) has been touring the UK for the last couple of months. Adapted by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, the play brings TV legend Patrick Duffy to our stages, and centres around an investigation into the disappearance of Elizabeth Corban (Linda Purl), reported by her husband Daniel (Duffy). Local Inspector Levine (Gray O’Brien) offers little in the way of assistance, putting it down to a simple marital dispute, until Mrs Corban reappears out of the blue. However, Daniel doesn’t recognise her, and claims she’s an imposter out to cash in on his life insurance. As Levine tries to piece it all together, Elizabeth’s claims to her identity seem airtight……is Daniel actually just losing his mind?
Directed by Bob Tomson, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ is an uneven and somewhat underwhelming experience. Neither funny enough to be a comedy, nor exciting enough to be a thriller, it doesn’t fully commit to either genre, and in doing so, falls short of both. The play either needs bigger laughs to establish itself as a black comedy, or else create more spikes in tension which are sorely lacking. Being set in one unchanging location (a holiday retreat in the Catskill Mountains) with no incidental scoring to either heighten tension or ramp up the laughter, the piece often falls frustratingly flat. There could be an excellent dramatic thriller here, or a dark comedy, but Tomson’s uncertain hybrid doesn’t completely gel.
The lead performances also feel a little misplaced. Duffy lacks gravitas, and doesn’t make the audience care enough for his turmoil over his missing wife or the question mark over his sanity, playing it too subdued and robbing the story of its grip. In contrast, Linda Purl & Gray O’Brien play it a little too broad, which would be fine if the play were intended as a farce, but less successful as the thriller it’s trying to be. It all culminates in a confused tone throughout, and it feels like a more defined vision was needed to truly give the play a distinct identity.
There are bright spots, however. Hugh Futcher is enjoyably endearing as local snack-maker Sidney, turning a relatively small part into a hugely memorable one, and making the audience care about his character in a short space of time. The play is also rescued from mediocrity from an 11th hour plot twist which makes the preceding two hours worthwhile. It’s a satisfying conclusion that few will see coming, and leaves audiences feeling like they had a better night out than they may have been feeling prior to that final revelation.
A half-baked comedy thriller that needed a bit more time in the oven, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ doesn’t quite hit the mark, but a clever final act is enough to save it and make it better than a night in front of the telly.
‘Catch Me If You Can’ runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 28th May, before continuing to tour the UK until Saturday 2nd July.
Performance runtime 2 hours 5 minutes including interval.