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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Ken Ludwig's The Fox on the Fairway Lands in the Rough

Also see Bob's review of Candida

Fox on the Fairway
Michael Mastro, Amy Hohn and Peter Scolari
It appears that the fine cast of farceurs on stage at the George Street Playhouse and their director David Saint felt that they had to grossly ratchet up the performance in order for audiences to find amusement in the rickety new farce Ken Ludwig's The Fox on the Fairway. Given the level of the material at hand, the decision to present Fox in this manner may have been the best choice available to them.

The setting is the Quail Valley Country Club on the eve of its annual inter-club golf match with the visiting Crouching Squirrel Club which has won the match for the past several years. Henry Bingham, the bellicose Quail Valley director, has recruited an off-stage new club member whose golf game surpasses any other member of either club to play for his team. Withholding the information that he has gotten this new member to switch to Crouching Squirrel, rival club director Dickie Bell bets Bingham on the outcome of the match to the tune of his $200,000 against $100,000 and the antique shop of Bingham's wife which Dickie knows to be worth $2,000,000 as part of a real estate deal. This clumsy set-up alienates us from both Bingham and Bell.

Bingham discovers that Justin Hicks, his young newly hired assistant, is a spectacular, under-par golfer and recruits him for the match. Justin has just gotten engaged to club waitress Louise. When she accidentally flushes the family heirloom engagement ring that he gave to her down the toilet, Justin has a meltdown. He loses a ten stroke lead, and when play resumes the next day the match is tied with one hole left to play.

This quartet is joined on stage by Pamela, Dickie's blowsy, justifiably aggrieved ex-wife, who is a trustee for Bingham's club. She and the latter were childhood lovers and ... well, you know; and Muriel, Bingham's battle-axe wife, who, contrary to the play's internal logic, enthralls Dickie. Pamela does get the double entendre line that may qualify as being simultaneously the evening's best and worst line. Speaking of Dickie, she tells Bingham, "I gave him the best good luck charm in the world. I kissed his balls".

The talented cast and David Saint's direction are at their best on two occasions. Late in the first act, there is an extended chase sequence utilizing all four on-stage door and entranceways during much of which a vase is unerringly lofted high in the air as it is repeatedly passed among the entire sextet of actors. This sequence is a great deal of fun. At the conclusion of Fox, the actors perform a frenzied and delightfully hilarious two-minute replay of the entire farce. While this produces a sense of déjà vu for theatergoers who have seen Ludwig's popular Lend Me a Tenor, it is marvelously well done, and works even better here. The reason being that we are better able to follow the condensed version of events in Fox because of the less complex nature of the farce.

Peter Scolari (Bingham), Michael Mastro (Dickie), Amy Hohn (Pamela), Mary Testa (Muriel), and ingénues Reggie Gowland (Justin) and Lisa McCormack (Louise) work tirelessly to enliven matters. However, in the best of farce, there ia a sense of seriousness and danger, things of value truly at stake. Performers jumping up and down to inform audiences that what they are watching is funny are not the stuff of superior farce. Only Amy Hohn (Pamela) manages to delve beneath the all on the surface, frenetic nature of the evening to bring some depth to her role. Hohn displays a bit of anger with a thirst for revenge as well as a sense of regret, which makes her Pamela the most interesting character on stage.

The large and attractive, complex revolving set by Michael Anania is an unalloyed pleasure, amusing in its own right delight. David Murin's costumes contribute to the audience's laughter via the spectacularly ugly golf shirts.

Ken Ludwig's The Fox on the Fairway continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm - except 3/31 - and Sun. 7 pm - except 4/17 -/ Matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 2 pm - except 4/7) through April 17, 2011, at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Box Office: 732-246-7717; online: www.GSPonline.org.

Ken Ludwig's The Fox on the Fairway, directed by David Saint

Cast
Justin...............Reggie Gowland
Louise..............Lisa McCormack
Dickie.................Michael Mastro
Bingham................Peter Scolari
Pamela.......................Amy Hohn
Muriel........................Mary Testa


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


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- Bob Rendell



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