IF YOU GO
What: Farce about a London taxi driver trying to keep his kids by two different wives from falling in love; sequel to "Run For Your Wife"
When: Wednesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinées through August 18.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $28 to $49.
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
FORT MYERS — Are you bored of the boom-boom blockbusters hitting the multiplex? Did "Magic Mike" fail to rise to your expectations? Then hie thee to the Off-Broadway Palm. Get "Caught in the Net" and laugh until your sides hurt, you gasp for breath and your eyes water. Don't miss this one.
A sequel to last summer's "Run for Your Wife," the Ray Cooney-penned show finds London taxi driver John Smith still splitting time between two wives, two houses and two lives. Only this time, his daughter by Mary and son by Barbara meet in an Internet chatroom and decide to "hook up." Cue the lies, twisting stories, topsy-turvy scrambles and endless slamming doors.
Farce requires skills above and beyond comedy. Characters must whip the show's pace to a frantic froth almost immediately - and sustain it for two hours. Along the way, jokes must land, dialogue must fly out of their mouths at impossible speeds and visual jokes needing split-second timing must happen.
Director Paul Bernier gets all that - and more - from his cast. Every part of the show works. From entrance to exit, every moment of "Caught in the Net" bubbles with laughter. Actually, that's incorrect. "Howls with laughter" better reflects my reaction. I twisted my program into knots, screamed out loud at certain lines and pounded the chair arm in sheer delight.
Victor Legarreta returns as two-timing taxi driver John Smith. Whether running back and forth across the stage going from slamming door to slamming door or diving over the couch, he hams it up with the best of them. Imagine a grown man in a furry parka and a snorkel doing the backstroke through the living room. It only gets nuttier from there.
Broadway Palm newcomer Matt Reed practically steals this show as John Smith's best friend and partner-in-crime Stanley Gardner. His exquisite comic timing, whining voice and magnificent facial expressions put the show truly over the top. Forced to tell lie after lie after lie to protect his friend, Stanley piles the untruths higher and higher, inventing dotty aunts, insane uncles and a crazy grandpa in the attic.
Watching Reed stagger back and forth between characters screaming and pounding on locked doors while the doorbell bongs in the background might be one of the show's best scenes. Or that honor might go to the "dead" man covered with a sheet - and I kid you not - rolled up in a carpet. When Reed packaged the "corpse" up like a burrito, I thought the audience was going to scream the house down.
Every member of the ensemble works in unison to achieve comedic perfection. Kelly Parker-Legarreta (Mary) chases Reed around the set with a butcher knife when she's not pounding down doors. Jenny Smith (Barbara) mumbles psychobabble, makes inconvenient phone calls and wants to go to the new vegan restaurant. Look for Bernier himself as a cranky pensioner who thinks the Smith house is a hotel. He drops deft one-liners, tickles the wives and tries to go swimming in the kitchen.
Kids Christopher Brent (Gavin) and Rachael Endrizzi (Vicki) pout, scream and shout with glee. Jim Conti's costumes (a British flag shirt for him, a rainbow striped tee for her) make the pair look adorably young - and bratty. Look for quirky touches in the set and costumes - like a mod light fixture, Reed's Twister-themed bath towel or Endrizzi's Peace backpack and bubble-gum pink bicycle helmet.
"Caught in the Net" is not deep, intelligent or particularly thoughtful comedy. The plot invites groans and eye-rolling at the very ridiculousness of the whole thing.
Yet, this wonderfully talented cast and crew make comedic magic happen out of the slimmest lines, the barest jokes and the most awful sight gags. Nowhere else would an old man falling on the floor - not once, but multiple times - bring delighted cries. Make haste and get "Caught in the Net."
Internet dating is not for me. Too many serial killers out there. Email me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.