South Park Theatre’s production of Catch Me If You Can has more plot twists and turns than a Parkway West construction detour! However, before we go any further, this show bears no similarity to the 2002 Stephen Spielberg movie or the 2011 Broadway musical by the same name!
This is a witty and amusing mystery comedy by Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert that was adapted from a French play by Robert Thomas. It premiered on Broadway in 1965 at the Morosco Theatre. (Broadway Trivia- The Morosco was razed in 1982, along with the first Helen Hayes, the Bijou, and remnants of the Astor and the Gaiety theaters; it was replaced by the 49-story Marriott Marquis hotel and Marquis Theatre.)
The play opens with Daniel Corban (James Hartley), an ad man on his honeymoon at his boss’ Catskill lodge. Daniel calls the local police to investigate his new wife’s sudden disappearance. Detective Levine (Michael Shahen) arrives at the cabin to collect the details and investigate. Shortly after that, a pretty young girl (Erin Mcauley), who claims to be his wife arrives accompanied by a priest Father Kelleher (Glenn Brooks) who confirms her identity as Mrs. Corban. Red-herrings keep popping up as the mystery gets more mysterious until it appears Daniel has lost his marbles and clearly needs to spend some time at a “rest home” to get it together. Sydney (Susan Haudenshield), the owner of the local delicatessen, shows up the second morning with the delivery of coffee and brunch, only to wind up dead! Oh, and Father Kelleher winds up dead as too! Then the owner of the cabin shows up. The ingenious twists and turns continue as we in the audience keep guessing until the final minutes of the play when we are justly rewarded.
Director Sandy Boggs has assembled a charming cast of experienced, and age appropriate to the role, actors. Michael Shahen’s portrayal of Detective Levine, the slightly bumbling and seemingly very frustrated with this waste of time investigation, is engaging and fun to watch. Erin Mcauley as Daniel’s missing but returned wife kept us wondering all evening; is she or isn’t she? If you went to Central Casting and asked for an actor to portray a Catholic priest, they would surely send you Glenn Brooks. He is perfect in the role in which believability is essential. He dies nicely as well. Susan Haudenshield is quite the hoot as Sydney, the very confident owner, chief, counter man and delivery boy from the without-a-doubt world’s best deli.
James Hartley has, in my opinion, the most challenging role to play. His character Daniel is a fizzy, frustrated, concerned, irritated, sometimes believable, and yet sometimes not, kind of guy. He covers all those bases, which makes him a rather unlikeable character, yet we are sympathetic to his plight. Elliott O’Brien and Sarah Parker have brief cameos as Daniel’s boss and his companion.
In a show that is seemingly simple, but in reality, is quite complex, Boggs keeps it all together. Directing actors who are playing a character that themselves are acting can get a bit muddled up. In a play that is a murder mystery that’s precisely what you need though to keep the audience engaged. There is a tricky bit of ongoing business with the phone, which requires the right actor to be close to the phone, for their character to answer the call and not someone else. This was handled so well, invisibly in fact, that you really didn’t notice that level of detail until your ride home thinking about how you guessed wrong!
The creative team, led by Boggs’ set design, fits the design elements together perfectly. In this type of play, the design work needs to be almost invisible. Set, lights, costumes, props and sound work together to make the play believable without drawing attention to themselves. The rest of the design team, Lighting by Gregg Messmer, Costumes by Annabel Lawrence, Props by Peter Verhaeghe and Sound by Michael Zandhuis, delivers a nicely unified production in the intimate space of the South Park Theatre.
Catch Me If You Can delivers an intriguing mystery that will keep on your toes until the end.
Catch Me If You Can at the South Park Theatre now through August 18th on Thursdays, Friday, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm with Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm.
Reservations may be made by leaving a message with the box office at 412-831-8552