It’s a rare treat to get a big Hollywood name appearing in a regional theatre tour. Often the really big stars of stage and screen get a touch of the vapours if they have to depart the West End for the provinces.
So producer Bill Kenwright should be applauded for enticing former Dallas star Patrick Duffy over the pond to front his latest show, Catch Me If You Can, which opened last night atMilton Keynes Theatre.
This comedy-mystery-drama (with one helluva twist) left me open-mouthed at the absurdity of it all but there’s no denying its entertainment value.
With a one hour first act, and just 45 minutes to follow, CMIYC is a pacy investigative thriller that keeps you guessing right up until the cast take their final bows.
It’s utterly ridiculous but I had a great time just wondering where the contrived and convoluted plot would take me. The story’s full of holes but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 105 minutes (plus interval).
Its creators, Americans Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, spent most of their career writing comedy and children’s TV (Yogi Bear & Scooby Doo) but they came up with this rare play in 1965, basing it on a French play, Trap for a Lonely Man, by Robert Thomas.
It’s September at a hideaway log cabin in the Catskill Mountains and advertising exec Dan Corban (Duffy) has mislaid his wife.
They had only been married for two weeks and were on their honeymoon when they had a minor row, she walked out and hasn’t been seen since.
He has reported her missing to the local cops and is hitting the Scotch until her return.
But world-weary Detective Levine (you know the sort – grubby mac, wisecracks and ubiquitous coffee cup) has other crimes on his mind. He assures the worried newly-wed: ”I have bad news for you. In 96 per cent of cases they come back!”
Suddenly a parish priest arrives and announces that he’s brought back the errant Mrs Corban…..except that the blonde that walks through the door, and who insists that she is Dan’s wife, is nothing like the redhead he’d married just days earlier.
Is Dan losing the plot? Who’s the mystery blonde? And why doesn’t Dan make a run for it when he learns of her nefarious intentions?
It’s completely daft but Bob Tomson’s taut direction keeps the action on fast forward. There are gags a plenty and a nice cameo from Hugh Futcher as Sidney, the local sandwich maker.
But in reality this is a three-handed game of cat and mouse with Duffy sparring with Gray O’Brien’s jovial (though rather clichéd) cop and the conniving blonde Linda Purl (Duffy’s real life partner and big star of US stage and screen).
Backing them up is the always reliable and very entertaining Kenwright regular BenNealon.
It’s not Christie or Highsmith but it will keep you guessing right until the last line and you’ll have some laughs along the way.
The cast looks like they’re having as much fun as the audience. Linda Purl makes a convincing femme fatale, who is hell bent on getting one over the smooth-talking Daniel.
She’s very glam, rocking the Hitchcock-blonde look, though finds it difficult running around the set in the 1960s mini-skirt they’ve shoe-horned her into.
O’Brien’s cynical detective delivers some great one-liners – even if many are politically incorrect in today’s climate – and he gets through enough coffee to keep the old grey cells working overtime.
The only thing to mar opening night was Patrick Duffy’s poor sound. While the rest of the cast could be easily heard it was frequently impossible to understand what the star was saying.
Catch Me If You Can runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday. For all remaining tour dates and an interview with Patrick Duffy, click HERE.
Catch Me If You Can
Dallas star Patrick Duffy loses a wife in Catch Me If You Can, a totally bonkers but thoroughly entertaining comedy thriller, at Milton Keynes Theatre.