Bowie Community Theatre's production of Catch Me If You Can should prove a good catch for folks who enjoy sorting contradictory clues in a plot filled with twists and turns and figuring out who is real among characters with false identities.
My first surprise was discovering that Bowie's offering is not related to the show I expected - the 2002 Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio - but instead is a 1965 mystery/comedy written by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. The pair, along with Abe Burrows, had co-written the book for How to Succeed in Business, which is the 2nd Star attraction in June at Bowie Playhouse.
The play Catch Me If You Can is set in 1965 in the Catskills, where honeymooning Daniel Corban is frantically searching for his wife, who has been missing for three days. Inspector Levine, a somewhat bumbling, nonchalant local, is working the case and vacillates between believing Corban and questioning his sanity.
As the detective and Corban discuss his wife's disappearance, Father Kelleher arrives at the lodge and soon produces Elizabeth. Corban denies that this woman is his wife, even though she knows almost everything about him and can answer all of the inspector's questions, including where Corban has a scar.
With numerous twists and turns, several clues are revealed, including the groom's making his bride the beneficiary of a $100,000 insurance policy purchased shortly before the wedding, the discovery of a sizable inheritance left by Elizabeth's aunt and mysterious recalled sightings of Mrs. Corban.
Directed by Dan Kavanaugh, who moves the action along at the required brisk pace to build suspense, the show is filled with well-timed surprises. The cast plays well against each other and knows how to keep the audience guessing.
Craig Alan Mummey has created an authentic-looking lodge set complete with a cozy stone fireplace and a mounted moose head. Garret R. Hyde's first-rate lighting and sound design enhances suspense.
Former physician and current film producer Geoff Wilner makes his Bowie acting debut as Daniel Corban, letting his character emerge from distraught to an increasingly desperate man whose sanity is in question, often shifting back to moments of steely composure.
On opening night, Todd Cunningham initially missed a few lines and had some timing problems as Inspector Levine, although he grew more comfortable in the detective role, believably alternating between supporting and suspecting Corban.
Liza Herschel is consistently on the mark in the pivotal role of Elizabeth Corban - scheming, taunting and seductive with Daniel, and playful with Inspector Levine.
Veteran actor Greg Coale is convincing as Father Kelleher.
Zareh Mozian plays deli man Sidney with a nice combination of warmth and decency, supporting protagonist Corban as he reveals his earlier contact with his wife.
Bowie Community Theatre regular Bryant Centofanti brings believability and blustering comic flair to the role of Daniel's boss Everett Parker. As Parker's wife, Stacey Hook delivers a lively, entertaining performance.
Although the cast built enormous suspense with skilled timing, I had some reservations about their ability to deliver the Catskills humor that is part of the play.
Catch Me If You Can continues on weekends through Feb. 25. For tickets call 301-805-0219.