Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre couldn’t be better situated to stage Ken Ludwig’s country club farce, The Fox on the Fairway.
With the Riviera Country Club, the Coral Gables Country Club, and the Biltmore Golf Course all nearby, there has to be an audience primed for golf-related humor for the Miracle Mile theater’s penultimate show of its stellar 25th anniversary season.
Ludwig’s sporadically funny but involving homage to screwball British farces of the 1930s and 1940s plays more like an episode of the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company with some obvious locker room groaners in the script.
What works on a 30-minute farcical TV sitcom needs to be performed to near perfection, with crisp direction, to succeed as a two-act, two-hour live stage production. Fortunately, Actors’ Playhouse’s presentation features some standout talent, on stage and off. They give it their all — sometimes, too much of their all — so that Fox on the Fairway, for its few water traps, ultimately sends its audience home amused and entertained.
The play centers around a golf tournament between rival country clubs, Quail Valley and Crouching Squirrel.
Ken Clement, a Carbonell Award winner, plays Bingham, the hapless Quail manager. He battles Squirrel’s manager, the blustery narcissist Dickie (Todd Allen Durkin), who is given to grand malapropisms — “The sock is on the other shoe” — and to wearing outrageously colorful sweaters and pants. Costume designer Ellis Tillman merits a special Carbonell mention just for finding the eye-popping and hilarious golfing duds Dickie sports. “Did you have to kill it, or did it crawl up your chest?” Dickie’s asked by man-hungry ex-wife Pamela (Amy McKenna).
Dickie cajoles Bingham into a too-rich personal bet just before the tournament is about to tee off. The bumbling Bingham doesn’t know his star player has switched his membership to the other club, so he’s stuck with goofy new hire Justin (Clay Cartland), a terrific golfer but one with the tendency to fall apart whenever he hears bad news. Naturally, Justin gets some bad news from his even flightier fiancée, Quail’s Tap Room waitress Louise (Betsy Graver).
This production of Fox on the Fairway would benefit from a less hyper and overloud performance from Graver. Director David Arisco might have been better off toning down her performance several notches.
Shaping this role was one of Arisco’s few missteps. Otherwise, he gets the most out of Gene Seyffer’s attractive lounge set. Alexander Herrin’s smart sound design makes the off-stage golf tournament come to life through clever panning of audio effects.
Arisco also gets a fine performance from Clement, who becomes so many club managers you’ve probably encountered, and snickered at, over the years. Cartland exhibits a likable bit of Steve Martin’s comic timing from The Jerk era. McKenna, who springs from Actors’ Playhouse’s drama, August: Osage County, proves she can handle slapstick comedy with aplomb. You’ll laugh as she attempts to fish out a wayward oyster from her bountiful décolletage.
The closing, instant-replay reenactment of the entire production in about two minutes’ time is one of the most ingenious moments of comic theater we’ve seen yet.
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