Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Some people think golf is a silly game played mostly by aging, white seniors who are struggling with their ‘arrested development’ syndromes and plunging testosterone levels.   Mark Twain said it best with the pithy observation: “golf is a good walk spoiled.” There is a lot of truth in that lament, however, the people who keep trying to master the game make great ‘characters’ for plays, movies, and nove

Jacquelyn Ritz, Brian Salmon and Kevin Bailey
Jacquelyn Ritz, Brian Salmon and Kevin Bailey

Ken Ludwig, one of America’s great practitioners of the art form known as farce is keenly aware of the foibles and folly of human behavior has written a comedy/farce set against a golf background that should please his legion of fans.

“Fox on the Fairway”, helmed by Director Matthew Wiener, has a stellar cast who try to bring this lightweight comedy/farce to life, however, this Ludwig effort isn’t up to level of his blockbuster plays that took home two Best Play Tony Awards for “Lend Me A Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo” several seasons ago.

Jacquelyn Ritz and Roxane Carrasco
Jacquelyn Ritz and Roxane Carrasco

The story is set at the fictitious Quail Valley Country Club where the annual country club challenge tournament between Quail Valley and Crouching Squirrel Country Club is being held. It’s a glittering evening for the ladies and it’s a heavily wagered event by the two club presidents. This time the bet is $100,000 to the wining club president. Henry Bingham (Kevin Bailey) of Quail Valley and Dickie Bell (Brian Salmon) of Crouching Squirrel, Bingham’s obnoxious, Malapropism quoting, bloviating rival are both looking for any angle that will give them an edge in the golf tournament.

Kevin Bailey, Kyle Sorrell, Jacquelyn Ritz and Ashley Stults
Kevin Bailey, Kyle Sorrell, Jacquelyn Ritz and Ashley Stults

Bingham hires a new assistant Justin Hicks (Kyle Sorrell) and is counting on new Quail Valley member and ‘ringer’ named Tramplemaine to play for the team. The trouble begins when Bingham learns the morning of the tournament that Dickie has lured Tramplemaine to play for Crouching Squirell instead. What’s an outmaneuvered fellow to do? Why, just let the silliness and the madcap and zany farce antics begin. Other players in the scenario are: Louise, clubhouse waitress and Justin Hicks’ new fiancée, and Pamela, the Board Vice President (Jacquelyn Ritz), who is always on the lookout for a new toy to play games with, and at the moment Henry Bingham is in Pamela’s cross-hairs and Muriel Bingham (Roxane Carrasco) the screeching, battle-axe wife of Henry.

Directors usually bring their personal visions to the productions they oversee; which at times, can either enhance or impede the success of a production. We’re dealing with a wild and wooly farce here. Yes, the action calls for broad on-stage action: slamming doors, improbable situations, ridiculous solutions, etc. If everyone is trying to move story along, would it be too much ask that it should be at least within the zip code of believability? It’s difficult to buy ‘the various bits’ when the premise is flawed from the get go. All the laughs in the world can’t win the day or the $100,000 wager if there isn’t a scintilla of believability in the whole ball of wax.

One should never be surprised, however, when good actors make something out of nothing. Kevin Bailey, Jacquelyn Ritz and Ashley Stults give it their best and come off as having a good time as well as giving good performances.

The set design by Marty Burnett is picture-perfect for a golf club Tap Room. The lights designed by Matt Novotny are always right on the money. The costumes by Elisa Benzoni are appropriate for the farce underpinnings, but anachronistic knickerbockers! They went out of style in the 1940’s. That’s either stretching credulity or pandering for laughs. Whatever happened to controlled subtlety?

“Fox on the Fairway”, now on stage at North Coast Repertory Theatre, runs through October 11, 2015.

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