You don’t have to like golf or be a golfer to enjoy “Fox on the Fairway” at Clague Playhouse. All you have to be is open to the idea of a well-written and well-presented modern-day farce. Writer Ken Ludwig has a knack for constructing insanely improbable scripts that are, well, insane. In this one, there’s an unfriendly rivalry between two golf clubs that each year comes to a head with a match between the clubs. The clubs’ directors make a bet on the outcome and neither one of them can afford to lose the bet. So, they go to great lengths to win.
I saw the Clague production at a final dress rehearsal through the courtesy of director Ron Newell. Lou Will is Bingham, the manager who wins us over with his glee at getting a golfer who will beat the team fielded by manager Dickie at the rival club. Will really stretches his acting ability in this production, as he blusters as the impatient manager and later revives a romance with his high school sweetheart. In one of the show’s best scenes, they relive their youthful fire unaware that an errant microphone is broadcasting their antics to everyone at the club’s dining room. Donna Case is perfect in her timing as a middle-aged club member who unsuccessfully tries to restore order in the wildly off-track golf match. Together, Will and Case are better than the sum of their individual performances.
Similarly, real-life romantics Debbie Lenarz and Jeremy Jenkins engage in realistic lover squabbles as two “undiscovered” golf pros. Though this may not make any sense in real life, in the framework of the script, their passion somehow works. Within the first three minutes of “Fox of the Fairway,” the characters of Justin and Louise are rolling on a couch with undergarments flying off. It’s a great start to the farce that is incredibly sexy, but never sexual, or offensive.
I was really impressed with Lance Switzer as rival manager Dickie. Although the playwright uses obnoxious clothing to help establish his character, Switzer’s Dickie is a beautifully crafted comedic role. His stylized laugh and shifty facial expressions are perfect for the character. Completing the cast is Margy Haas as Muriel Bingham. While golf is her husband’s passion, hers is owning an antique store. Described early in the show as fat and domineering, when Muriel finally appears, Haas makes up for her slender stature with a forceful personality.
Ron Newell’s direction is brisk but never rushed, and as the characters chase each other through the set’s multiple doors, they communicate most of the extensive verbal and physical humor that the script is loaded with. “The Fox on the Fairway” has some mildly titillating dialogue and situations, but it is far less offensive than much of what is on television today. Kudos in this production to sound designer Bryan Ritchey, who took pains to rig the effects that add a lot of aural jokes to the production. “Fox on the Fairway” runs through May 25 in the intimate Clague Playhouse. It’s certainly worth a visit.