The style of classical theatrical farce is alive and well, as evidenced by “The Fox on the Fairway” at Huntington Playhouse through Sunday, June 30. Farce is generally agreed to be an exaggerated form of comedy which is in the realm of the unrealistic. Think of The Three Stooges, The Marx Bros., or the “National Lampoon” family vacation movies.
Playwright Ken Ludwig, who has distinguished himself in many theatrical styles, wrote this wonderful romp centered in the contemporary world of two rival country clubs whose “friendly” tournament has morphed into a Gears of War battle between the club managers. Huntington regular Assad Khaishfi is well cast as Bingham, the seemingly cranky manager at Quail Valley who wagers not only $100,000 on the annual tournament game, but also his wife’s antique shop. He thinks a win is a sure thing since he has a ringer of a new player. Unknown to Bingham, the star golfer has defected to his rival club, The Crouching Squirrel.
Through the years, Khaishfi has expanded the roles he can successfully portray, and is a hoot in this show. He gets the first few big laughs of the show with dry sarcastic comments when he discovers two of his employees making out in the club’s Tap Room. He is well-paired with Greg Mandryk who plays the appropriately named rival Dickie, from The Crouching Squirrel. With increasingly bizarre pants and sweater combinations, Dickie’s wardrobe looks like what you’d bury a dead clown in. Mandryk too latches on to mannerisms that identify him as the villain in the piece.
Completing the men of the cast is stage newcomer Kelly Lytle as last-minute substitute golfer Justin. Lytle shows good instincts as a performer and blends well with the experienced pros – the onstage ones, not the golfers. His youthful enthusiasm and energy were tapped well in this production.
I especially enjoyed Pam Matthews as slutty, hard drinking, Pamela. Actually, this character is one of the best drawn by Ludwig. One of the show’s funniest moments is when Pamela, forced by a series of increasingly outrageous lies, desperately pretends to be blind for a time. Tara Kodosky as the goofy ingenue Louise, uses an annoying high pitched voice, combined with a too-rapid delivery. This makes most of what she says incomprehensible for the first act. Completing the cast is Elizabeth Allard as Henry’s wife Muriel. The last to appear on stage, Muriel has to start strong, and Allard is a fierce purse wielding terror. In one of the show’s many clever moments, the audience hears her voice on the phone as a squawking duck.
“Fox on the Fairway” will appeal to you even if you have no interest in golf. Director Dan Sekanic has made a nice match of blending the cast with the wonderful script. On the night I saw the production, a small audience, usually very difficult to “win over,” were captivated from the start and we had a wonderful evening enjoying the show. Each act of the show starts with the cast giving quotes about golf. “Golf and sex are two things you can enjoy even if you’re not too good at them.” There are the expected obvious jokes, “He kisses his balls before he plays for good luck.” Mostly, “The Fox on the Fairway” is a treasured contemporary farce that entertains audiences of all ages.