Caught in the Net Is a Play You Won’t Want to Throw Back

Sioux City Community Theatre:
Caught in the Net

Sioux City Community Theatre
Sioux City, Iowa
Friday, January 24, 2020
Future Performances: January 25 & 26

Sioux City Community Theatre’s stated goal for its 72nd season is to offer up a lineup of plays that let you turn off all the turmoil that’s going on in the outside world and leave your worries at the door.  Ray Cooney’s energetic and absurd farce Caught in the Net puts up a fine firewall to all the goings-on out there—at least as long as no one is living the kind of life that our protagonist, John Smith, is living in Wimbledon/Stratham. 

I don’t know how many Smiths there are in Siouxland, but apparently there are about 125,000 in the London area.  Lance Dake plays John Smith who plays the role of two John Smiths, about a five-minute drive from each other.  In Wimbledon—or is it Stratham?—he keeps a wife and son.  In Stratham—I think—a wife and a daughter and a lodger who’s been a hanger-on for far too long. 

If it sounds simple, it’s not, and John Smith emerges as a man the audience can barely believe has kept the charade up for sixteen years.  Dake does frazzled well, and his John Smith spends less time boasting like a bona fide Casanova and more time hiding from his wives and children: under hoodies, under sheets, at one point rolled up in a carpet. 

If it sounds silly, it is.  And thank goodness for that.  John Smith’s character offers us the basic premise and plot, but the funniest moments are the explanations of his absences and the outrageous ruses the Smith lodger “Uncle” Stanley concocts to keep the wives and kids at bay.  Stanley, played by Austin Brunick—in an impressive SCCT Main Stage debut—seems to have little to do with the actual story, but in many ways he’s the heart of the comedy.  When John’s gone, it’s Stanley stuck holding up the pillars, while the kids and wives come tickling under the armpits.  Brunick’s Stanley is loud, fed up, antic, and active.  His physical humor accounted for the most laughs of the night. 

The two Smith families couldn’t be more different.  Maggie Aceves as Mary (and Vicki’s mom) has angry and at-wit’s-end down.  She can be seen knocking on doors, wielding a rolling-pin, and having it out for Uncle Stanley.  On the other end of London there’s the other Smith wife, Barbara (Gavin’s mom), played by Gregory Adler.  Adler’s understated but equally hilarious (and equally feminine) Barbara stays calm and reserved, drinks health-nut juices, and can strut the stage in some heels when the time comes.  Savannah Brasch in her Mainstage debut as Vicki captures the why-are-you-ruining-my-life, righteously-wronged teenager to a T. Smith’s somewhat clueless son Gavin is played by Eli Werden, the third actor making a main stage debut.  Werden impresses most in the way he holds court with the jester-like Stanley amidst all of the physical comedy and buffoonery taking place in the Smith living room. 

Although the complicated plot starts in a tangle, it never ends up in a knot.  The resolution, which may start a gag or two too late, unwinds the story as the character reveal their true selves.  Not all, of course, is as it seems.  But it’s well worth the wait.

There are only two days left in its run, so if you have the chance, don’t let Caught in the Net slip through your fingers.  Director Ian Lee Curtis’s production will make you laugh—and maybe cringe—and then laugh again.  If art, as they say, is a mirror held up to life, then in times like these it’s nice to know that some of them are funhouse mirrors. 

Brendan Todt is a stay-at-home father who is working his way through the Shakespeare catalog in 2020. Right now he’s reading Titus Andronicus, which is only slightly less funny than Caught in the Net. Nothing says humor like seeing your enemies baked into a pie.