ROCHESTER, MICH.–Golf, humorist Mark Twain once mused, is a good walk spoiled.
The game unfolds at a contemplative pace so only die-hard fans that know the strategy behind each stroke can appreciate it as a spectator sport.
Not so with A Fox on the Fairway, a play by Ken Ludwig, which drives a funny but far-fetched farce to the green of the Quail Valley Country Club on the day before it’s annual grudge match with the rival Crouching Squirrel Country Club begins.
The play opened Jan. 12 at Meadow Brook Theater on the campus of Oakland University and continues through ***.
Crouching Squirrel, managed by Dickie Bell (Phil Powers), has been dominating the annual showdown. But Quail Valley manager Henry Bingham (David Wayne Parker) is sure his new club member is the ringer who is going to allow him to regain the championship. That enables Dickie to trick him into a foolish wager that includes a big sum of money and Bingham’s wife’s antique shop – which sits on a suddenly valuable piece of property. Only after the bet is made does Dickie reveal that Bingham’s ringer has defected to Crouching Squirrel.
The comedic complications that ensue unfold at a dizzying pace – including classic chase scenes in and out of doors—that are incongruent with the game of golf itself. Seriously, so much is happening on stage that you might need to see A Fox on the Fairway twice to soak it all in.
A lot of the laughs are generated from stereotypes, especially Powers’ obnoxious character who struts around in loud, mismatched clothes weilding a golf club as a walking stick or artillery.
Yet, golfers are sure to love this show because it’s stuffed with one-liners about the game’s abiding frustrations. Many of those aphorisms have sexual innuendo. After the second comparison of golf balls to a man’s testicles in the first act, I sighed and steeled my nerves for a tiresome evening of juvenile humor, but that never materialized.
Fortunately, the few jokes that provoked groans are overwhelmed by the perfectly paced and precisely executed physical comedy of the show. There’s a game of catch with an antique vase, an acrobatic yoga session by men in formalwear, a seductive dance to discharge an oyster that’s slipped off its shell and disappeared down the neckline of an evening dress, a blind-folded tee-off with a prone woman holding the ball on puckered lips. And the list goes on.
Casting decisions accentuated comedy in the script. The glam and boozy, serial-divorcee Pamela is superbly portrayed by the statuesque Cheryl Turski, who has dancing scenes with Bingham, played by Parker. Coupled with Turski, Parker is breast height.
Olivia Ursu is adorable as Louise, a young and naïve waitress in the Quail Valley taproom, who whimsically invents ways to connect the works of Homer to the world of golf and the quests of the country club set.
Lucas Wells also shines as Louise’s goofy fiancé, Justin, Quail Valley’s assistant manager, whose business acumen is eclipsed by his golfing prowess.
Stephanie Daniels also turns in a fine performance as Muriel, a battle-axe of a woman, who is Henry’s wife and Dickie’s love interest. Daniels manages to portray her character with both severity and agility – not an easy combination.
Parker’s and Powers’ over-the-top performances set the stage for what is a loud, brash, athletic show that kept the opening night crowd laughing – and probably yearning for spring on the golf course–from beginning to end.
To end the show, the six-member performs a brilliant retrospective overture, re-enacting in the space of about three minutes the most memorable choreography of the two-hour show. The precision was amazing and the cohesion – dare I call it “chemistry”? – of the cast was apparent.
That ending was my favorite part of an enjoyable evening.
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