If your taste
in comedy runs towards farce, you'll want to schedule a tee time soon for the world premiere of Ken Ludwig's A
Fox on the Fairway now playing at the Signature (to 11/14). Directed by John Rando with controlled abandon, and superbly cast with six physically and verbally agile
actors, Mr. Ludwig's blueprint for merrymaking (and mayhem) is fully realized in this madcap production.
Things have tightened up since opening night. About halfway into its five-week schedule, the show
has apparently lowered its handicap, dropping 30 or so minutes from the runtime, to end at less than two hours.
A Fox is a genial send-up of British farces on the 1930s and 40s and as such has none of the dark
social critique of, say, Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw or the shock and awe of Monty Python. (It is also
a spoof on farces in general and playfully subverts the genre.) The plot revolves around an annual grudge match between two
country clubs which escalates into a small arms race. The two principals - Quail Valley's scheming Bingham
(played with shifty delight by Jeff McCarthy) and Crouching Squirrel's Dickie (portrayed by Andrew Long with bombastic
glee) have sunk their sizeable egos into obtaining a loving cup that has resided for the last five years with the former's
avowed enemy on the course and possibly the bedroom. To secure a victory, both work determinedly at recruiting a ringer -
an accomplished golfer just below the ratings radar.
Through an elegant subterfuge,
Bingham first loses then finds a talent close at hand - newly hired assistant Justin (Aubrey Deeker) who just so happens to
be courting Quail Valley's winsome waitress Louise (Meg Steedle). Mr. Deeker and Ms. Steedle amusingly summon all
the innocence and enthusiasm their cardboard characters can muster in the venal world they are cast by the playwright.
Stirring the plot further with complication and coincidence, who should arrive with news on an outcomes clause in the director's
contract but the boozy and promiscuous country club board representative Pamela (Holly Twyford who gives her character a new
take on virtue and reward). Before they can get Justin into the match though, he must become a member, and quicker than
you can say "mulligan" the rules are adjusted and he's in. The skids are greased for antic-laden Act I,
full of word-play (double entendres and puns galore), door-banging, plot twists, and verbal backtracking - the characters
making it up as they go. Mr. Long's Dickie has not met a proverb he can't mangle (the play's title
suggests one) and it becomes a sort of tag, along with his bad sweaters. When things reach an impasse, the comically
forceful Valerie Leonard arrives in the form of dominatrix wannabe Muriel to sort out the muddles of these misfits. She and
Mr. Long pair up in Act II for a memorable bonding scene (Boom!)
Things are lost and found and
arrive and break. There are mistaken identities, fights and reconciliations, sexual digressions, a recognition scene
that would warm the hearts of the ancients Greeks (who are invoked in mock heroic blank verse), and a denouement that will
turn things inside out and defy the gods. And leave everyone improbably, though happily, paired at the end, in ways
they weren't at the beginning.
James Kronzer's functional though muted clubhouse
set, suggestive of a world in decline, with a green and brown color palette, is foregrounded lengthwise to the audience and,
together with Colin K. Bills' lighting, fairly jumps out at you. Costume designer Kathleen Geldard has assembled
a visually impressive wardrobe which is particular to the emotions and psyches of these wonderfully quirky characters.
Matt Rowe rummages through a montage of sounds to match the moods and tempi of the play and none so aptly as the rousing send-off.
After the ball drops for the final time, and curtain calls are made, Mr. Ludwig assays again the mime recapitulation
of the play that he brought in with the close of Lend Me a Tenor. To the delight of all in attendance we once
more relive the night's shenanigans in a few minutes to the strains of Rossini's William Tell Overture.
If you had any doubts about the plot or the actors' abilities, you'll find them gone, along with any troubles you
came in with.
Sound check: Good, low to mid sound levels except during emotional outbursts of which there
are many. There was an unintentional low-level acoustic hum throughout
Acceptable for a new show, which is still evolving, it includes golf terms, though the playwright's and/or director's
notes should be considered for the future. See Ken Ludwig's website for an interview regarding the play
Applause meter: 4 + hands (out of 5), highly recommended.
Well-directed, well-cast, and well-acted, and generally well-written - witty and entertaining - supported by excellent design.
There are no major problems with this show and few if any minor ones. The script fulfills the genre requirements of
both screwball comedy and farce admirably. That said, if you are looking for more in theater than laughs or even slapstick
(which was enough for the appreciative audience and this reviewer), this might not be for you.
moment of the show: Drunk Scene in Act II with Holly Twyford and Jeff McCarthy. A high wire act of extraordinary
virtuosity and humor
Stars of the play: Director, John Rando, Ensemble Cast,
and Playwright Ken Ludwig
Runtime: A little less than 2 hours with an intermission
Photo credits: Scott Suchman
© John F. Glass November 1,
2010 - All rights reserved