'Fox' delights with over-the-top comedy
“Golf is a good walk spoiled,” Mark Twain famously said. Whether that’s true or not, golf makes an excellent subject for comedy.
Theatre Lawrence exploits this to fine effect in its new staging of the Ken Ludwig farce, “The Fox on the Fairway.” A cast of six throws caution and dignity to the wind in an effort to squeeze every available laugh out of the script, which aims to be an homage to Marx Brothers-style films, and pulls it off with aplomb.
The plot concerns the latest installment of a long-running interclub tournament between two rival country clubs. Quail Run, the setting for the play and the site of this year’s match, has lost five in a row to Crouching Squirrel, and club manager Bingham (Shawn Trimble) is going to lose his job if it becomes six. But he’s brought in a ringer to tip the scales in Quail Run’s favor, and he makes an extravagant bet with Dickie (Dennis Tyner), Crouching Squirrel’s smarmy and conniving manager, on the outcome of the tournament. Unfortunately, Bingham’s ringer is actually playing for Crouching Squirrel, a fact Dickie doesn’t disclose until after the bet has been agreed on.
But it turns out that Bingham’s new assistant Justin (Jake Leet) is a scratch golfer. Bingham and Dickie’s ex-wife, Pamela (Amber Dickinson), hastily have Justin made a member so he can play and then watch with glee as Dickie is about to get his comeuppance. But when Justin’s fiancée, Louise (Julia Peterson), accidentally flushes her engagement ring down the toilet, he melts down, and his eight-shot lead may be in danger.
Leet is hilarious as the youthful and slightly maniacal Justin. He understands perfectly how to vary his delivery to alternate between sunny optimism and crazed meltdown. He flings his body around the stage with reckless hilarity in a way only a young, fearless actor can.
Peterson is likewise hysterical as the naïve Louise. She is at once innocent and wise. She jumps up and down with gleeful excitement anytime something good happens and goes to pieces hilariously when things go wrong.
Trimble plays Bingham with over-the-top cynicism. He yo-yos breathlessly between triumphant conceit and abject depression and weaves a fine mix between closeted desire for Pamela and open spite for his wife, Muriel (Natalie Jensen).
And Tyner doesn’t miss a beat as the ridiculous Dickie, constantly messing up his metaphors, coming on to every woman he meets and wearing comically hideous sweaters in scene after scene.
There are no new jokes in “The Fox on the Fairway.” Ludwig is not mining new material or even reviving old jokes in a new way. If you’ve seen a farce or enjoyed vaudeville, you’ve seen everything “Fox” tries to pull off.
But it just doesn’t matter. “The Fox on the Fairway” is packed with laughs, and the cast is so delightful one is sorry to see the final curtain come down. “Fox” is a comic treat that leaves one laughing long after the final bow.