'Fox on the Fairway' takes a swing at laughs

Charlie Goolsby is well acquainted with Ken Ludwig. Not personally, mind you. But Goolsby is very familiar with Ludwig’s work.

That’s why he was pleased to be asked to direct Theatre Lawrence’s new production of Ludwig’s comedy about country club politics, “The Fox on the Fairway.”

“It’s laugh-out-loud funny,” he says. “Even just reading the script, I was laughing out loud. My daughter came to check on me, because she heard me laughing, and she knew I wasn’t watching TV.”

Ludwig describes the play as an homage to Marx Brothers-style farces of the '30s and '40s.

“That’s how we’ve played it,” Goolsby says. “There’s a lot of mugging for the audience, and it’s very fast-paced.”

In fact, he notes, getting that pacing down was a key component of putting the show together.

“We were really dependent on getting the lines memorized,” he says. “You can’t pick up the pace until you know what you’re supposed to say and what everyone is going to be saying to you.”

But, if trying to get the pace right is a lot of work, it’s also what makes the play fun.

“The pacing of the humor is great,” he says. “There’s always something happening — something to look at, laugh at, or figure out.”

Goolsby has worked with Ludwig’s material before. His favorite of his shows is the Tony Award-winning “Lend Me a Tenor.” He’s directed a Ludwig show at Theatre Lawrence before, too, taking the helm on the Gershwin music tribute, “Crazy for You.”

“This is probably my second favorite script of his,” he says about “Fox.” “It’s more like ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ — you laugh continuously.”

“The Fox on the Fairway” is set at a country club, and the plot concerns an interclub golf tournament. The owner has brought in a ringer to secure the championship against their snooty competition, and he’s bet heavily on him. But, of course, things go horribly wrong, leaving our “hero” in search of a replacement before he loses everything.

But audience members who know little about or have little interest in golf needn’t worry.

“You don’t need to know much about golf to enjoy the show,” Goolsby says. “Saying ‘A Fox on the Fairway’ is a play about golf is like saying ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ is a play about opera. It’s just not true. Golf is just the vehicle for telling this very funny story.”

With this much experience with Ludwig comedies, does he have a favorite moment or something that stands out in this one he’s looking forward to audiences seeing? He smiles and leans back in his chair when you put the question to him.

“As a director,” he answers, “the thing I’m most interested to see is what the audience finds funny that we didn’t know they would. It happens in every show. You’re in a scene, and suddenly they laugh when you weren’t expecting it. I always like to see when that happens.” With as laugh-out-loud as this play is billed, he may not get the chance. Audiences may be laughing the whole way through.

“It’s a fun script,” he says, beaming.

“The Fox on the Fairway” runs Jan. 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27. Curtain is 7:30 p.m., except on Sundays, when it is at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 785-843-7469 or online at www.theatrelawrence.com.


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