“Caught in the Net” at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre

Sometimes, you just need to laugh and enjoy yourself. And when that time comes, there just isn’t anything better than good food, the company of good friends, and a British farce to do the trick. So when we got word from some friends that a plan had been formulated to take in “Caught in the Net” at the Golden Apple last Friday night, we jumped on it right away.

My wife and I love the Golden Apple. To us it is a “known” in a world of “unknowns.” You can always expect to be treated well, enjoy a good meal, and sample some of the very best local talent (and in a community like Sarasota where local talent is off the charts, that’s saying something!).

However, we knew nothing about the play that was on deck for the night we were scheduled to go. Nothing, that is, except that it’s a sequel to the other production that the theater is currently presenting in rolling repertory. In fact, we’d received a strong “hint” from theater staff that we should really see the other one (“Run For Your Wife”) first.

But… schedules are tricky, babysitting arrangements even more so, and it’s just too hard getting together with these two couples — people whose friendships are measured in decades rather than years, and who we just don’t see often enough.

So… we went for it anyway.

And boy are we glad we did!

“Caught in the Net” is a brilliantly-written play by Ray Cooney that takes place (according to the program) 17 years after the events of “Run For Your Wife.” Set entirely within the living quarters of two separate households (which happen to share the same space on-stage), the fast-paced opening scene quickly introduces the audience to the two families at the center of the unfolding drama. Think of it like a smartly-produced split-screen film segment… for the the stage.

As the scene unfolds, we quickly learn that the teen-aged boy from one family has “met” (online) the teen-aged girl from the other. And as they compare notes, they discover that not only do their fathers share a first, middle and last name, but also that — irony of all ironies — each has a cab driver for a Dad.

Even for those of us in the audience that had not yet seen the first play, it didn’t take long for us to figure out where things were going. Mr. John Smith, it seems, has been keeping up two families for the better part of two decades… and while working hard to keep his secret well-hidden, the determined young teenagers are about to be the undoing of it all. And that, of course, is where the tension begins for Mr. Smith, and where the fun starts for the audience.

The play is a hilarious romp through the chicanery of deception as John Smith and his sole confidante — a somewhat dim-witted boarder living with one of Smith’s two families — try to hold it all together.

No spoilers here — the play is a must-see, as is (I’m quite certain) it’s counterpart. The cast was nothing short of spectacular, and even managed to convince most of our party that their British accents were all authentic. Cliff Roles was brilliant in the role of Stanley Gardner (the boarder), and was — we discovered — the only cast member hailing from the British Isles and thus, the only with an authentic accent. Heidi Davis and Leigh Anne West were strong in their roles as the two Mrs. Smiths, opposite Ernest Weldon as the harried Mr. Smith. Of special delight were the two youngest members of the cast: Geena Ravella as the teenage daughter and Colton Herschberger (on the night we attended) as the teenage son. And Richard LeVene provided lots of comic relief as Stanley’s outspoken and quite senile father.

To round out the experience, dinner was fabulous as always. We helped ourselves to plenty from the buffet, where I personally enjoyed the delicious roast beef and some excellent mashed potatoes. The broccoli was quite good as well. The special treat, of course, was the dessert. My wife opted for a gooey pumpkin cake before curtain time, while I chose to have the chocolate torte arrive at intermission.  Since they were spaced apart, we ended up splitting both, and they were delicious.

All in all, it was a fabulous night out with favorite friends. I highly recommend that you treat yourself to an experience at the Golden Apple with the Turoff family and their top-notch team. You might just run into us there catching “Run For Your Wife!”

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