Story: Bingham, the worrisome president of Quail Valley Country Club, is besieged with complications. He’s found out that the scratch golfer he eagerly welcomed as a new member earlier in the year has abandoned ship and joined forces with Bingham’s cursed rival, Crouching Squirrel. To make matters worse, he learns of the defection only after he’s made a lavishly foolish bet with Dickie, his rival at Crouching Squirrel, who informs Bingham that the prized golfer is now playing for his team. And Quail Valley vice president Pamela bluntly tells Bingham that the board has decided to fire him if he doesn’t win the vaunted match after failing to do so for several years.
Since Bingham included his wife Muriel’s antique shop as part of the bet, he’s at a particular level of angst until he learns that Justin Hicks, a young man he’s just hired to the country club staff, is an excellent golfer as well. Dickie is suspicious that Justin hasn’t been a member for the minimum 30 days, but the big, annual, braggin’-rights match is on. Justin’s recent fiancée Louise, also an employee at Quail Valley, assures Bingham and Pamela that everything will be fine as long as Justin doesn’t let his fierce temper get the better of him. No sooner does she say that than Louise accidentally flushes her engagement ring down the toilet. Will Justin find out, lose his temper and maybe the match, too? What do you think?
Highlights: Golf lends itself to endless jokes, often sent via e-mail from one duffer to a cadre of others, and golfers are a passionate lot. Using a golf setting for comedy is ripe with possibilities (the wacky movie Caddyshack comes immediately to mind), and ratcheting it up to the level of farce makes the potential payoff even greater. That’s what playwright Ken Ludwig, author of the hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor, Moon over Buffalo and other works, attempts to do with this two-act work first produced in 2010.
Other Info: Set designer William Schmiel provides the requisite multiple doors required for any good farce with his handsome layout of Quail Valley’s “Tap Room,” complete with bar and assorted plaques and displays on background walls, courtesy of prop master Jim Ryan. Sean Savoie’s lighting design effectively depicts the weather for the key match as various hues indicate sunshine or thunderstorms.
The utterly loud and ridiculous wardrobe of garish sweaters and mismatched slacks adorning Dickie are the result of costume designer Laura Hanson’s wicked sense of humor, even as she dresses Bingham and the ladies in more traditional attire. Most impressive is the delicious sound design concocted by Bryce Allen, who somehow pieces together a litany of rock tunes performed on bagpipes that must be heard to be truly appreciated.
With such splendid technical support, the course looks and sounds beautiful and tailor-made for an evening of comedy. While the laughs are plentiful, this production falls short of true farcical success simply because director Tlaloc Rivas moves everything along much too slowly. For farce to be most effective, actions and reactions need to be quickly and smoothly choreographed lest the audience has too much time to question plot developments.
That’s the case with this Insight Theatre presentation, despite good performances by the cast. Paring 10 minutes from the performance time of two hours would greatly enhance the desired effect of reckless and riotous comedy. The potential certainly is there for rip-roaring laughs rather than merely polite chuckles.
Ed Reggi, who can probably be funny reading a phone book, has the malleable expressions and innate slapstick ability to keep an audience anticipating major comic moments. As Bingham, he’s the anchor around which the play’s humor spins, and he’s up for the challenge, especially in a fitfully funny scene where he embarrassingly reveals his emotions to the equally inebriated Pamela.
Jenni Ryan shows herself adept at comedy as the sexually suggestive Pamela, who like everyone else in the cast has some amazing coincidences that Ludwig reveals along the way. Julia Crump’s voice can be a bit too squeaky at times, but as the daffy Louise, who has an odd penchant for recalling ancient Greek literature, shows her own talents for slapstick as well.
Bob Harvey milks the role of the overbearing Dickie a tad too much and could benefit by scaling back on Dickie’s excessive outbursts, although he provides several comic moments with his garishly gaudy golf sweaters. Michael Amoroso is amusing as the fragile Justin Hicks (the name of a real PGA tour golfer, by the way), and particularly funny in scenes with Reggi. And as Muriel, savvy performer Susie Wall resuscitates the overly long first act with a grand entrance that demonstrates her own expert touch with comedy.
Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor is one of the funniest farces written in the last 20 years. There’s a really funny and fast-paced performance waiting to emerge from the script of The Fox on the Fairway, perhaps even by this cast and this director with a little pruning and prodding, but it isn’t there quite yet.
Play: The Fox on the Fairway
Group: Insight Theatre Company
Venue: Heagney Theatre, Nerinx Hall, 530 East Lockwood
Dates: July 12, 13, 14, 15
Tickets: $25-$30; contact 556-1293 or brownpapertickets.com
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb