Here is the playbill description of The Fox on the Fairway: "A tribute from Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo) to the great English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, The Fox on the Fairway is filled with mistaken identities, slamming doors, and over-the-top romantic shenanigans. It's a furiously paced comedy that recalls the Marx Brothers' classics and a charmingly madcap adventure about love, life, and man's eternal love affair with... golf."
You don't need a program to explain the plot, it involves a fantastical bet, a faked hysterical blindness, raging hormones, lost love, found love, new love, a baby give-away, a purple pimpernel, quirks, physical shtick and carrying the day. This is the kind of play where you check your brain on the way in and then just laugh and enjoy. Be sure to pick your brain up again before you leave.
Tacoma is a small town where the children are above average . . . oops, wrong town. Tacoma is a small town with many dedicated and talented people. Thursday, TLT Managing Directory Chris Serface made an announcement at Tacoma Rotary about the production The Fox on the Fairway. I turned to tablemate Donn Irwin from Lakewood Rotary and signed that we should see the play. Joining us at the table was our buddy, FISH Food Banks Board President Mike Mowat, who was attending with his Executive Director, Sue Potter, to accepted funds from The Rotary Club of Tacoma #8. Saturday evening found the three of us and our wives, at Tacoma Little Theatre. Donn and Deb Irwin own immedia, a direct mail firm, which helps market TLT. They are are
also sponsors. Mike and his wife Jan Runbeck are long time supporters of TLT.
As Donn dropped us all at the door of TLT, I spotted a friend, Ron Stone, walking with his wife towards the theater. Ron is a retired professor from the University of Puget Sound. We both served on the board at TACID (Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities). At TACID I involved my friends Mike and Jan; she was the founder of Tacoma RotoCare, which provided free medical care to people without medical insurance with chronic medical issues, stuck between Medicade and Medicare. Ron and Jan became friends from involvement with TACID. The Stones are season ticket holders.
As newlyweds Peg and I lived in an apartment just three blocks from TLT and first became season ticket holders in the mid-70s. Small world, small town.
The physical set of any play is one of the most important aspects of live stage entertainment. It "sets" the tone. The set designer is Burton K. Yuen, an architect with Weber Thompson Architects. He has designed sets for more than a dozen productions.
A good set needs to establish the mood, time, and place, but also needs to stand up to constant abuse from rehearsals through to the final curtain. The entire play of FOTF takes place in the reception room and bar of a country club, so the set had to look nice . . . FOTF is a farce, so the walls cannot wobble and shake from frantic characters and slamming doors. It was well constructed with two levels of wood flooring and a French door revealing the time of day at the stagae rear with back lighting. Kudos to Barton. Nicely done.
Both acts begin with golf one liners delivered by all characters simply approaching the audience down stage - Golf is a good walk spoiled . . . Hank Aaron's comment that it took him ten years to get 3,000 hits, but he was able to achieve that golfing in one afternoon . . . and plenty more.
Throughout the performance we were treated to more funny tidbits like: The state of marriage? It's right above Alaska . . . as cold, but without the drilling.
There's really no sense talking about plot twists and such. It's too involved and like Shakespeare doesn't really have to be believable . . . just strong enough to hang a story line on. The laughter and the mayhem build. The actors and their characters make the production.
Dickie, played to the tee by surgeon George McClure, is a smarmy, hail-fellow-well-met with a long history of easy conquests and ugly sweaters. Bingham, played by Andrew Fry, won my heart for nearly standing (really) on his head each time he had to sit cross-legged on the floor in a meditative pose; and he required a hand to stand up. My knees ached each time in sympathy. Pamela, played by Stacia Russell, loves love and drinking. She's spent her whole life with a slew of Mr. Right Nows, to make up for not latching onto Mr Right ages ago. These three characters were well played and most action turned on them.
The love interest is provided by Justin, played by Rodman Bolek, and Louise, played by Tracy Torwick. Rodman was excellent in the last production as Albert Einstein. In FOTF he's no Einstein, but rather an idiot savant golfer . . . and the part-time newly hired country club assistant to the manager. His physical antics are almost as amazing as his costumes. Tracy stomps, cries and runs and is very "engaging." It's easy to see her "in love" with Justin. They both have stars in their eyes with no idea what marriage or being in love is all about, but then who does? Well, Muriel, played by Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson, does. She has very definite ideas. It's a small part, but she doesn't come up short. Her kissing scene with Dickie was memorable.
Packed with action and movement, the production is tightly directed by Curt Hetherington. As Bingham and Muriel go through the club membership rating the qualities of each member, there were some inside jokes as fun was poked at TLT board members and staff.
It looked like cues and back stage management was all done on-time so five stars go to backstage hands. The only thing I didn't like is the curtain call with a fast re-do of each scene. The audience can't sustain applause very long and it just peters out. I've seen this gimmick fall flat numerous times with Lend Me a Tenor by the same author.
In the end Louise delivers some couplets ala Shakespeare that encourages us all to "stay the course". I love puns. This farce was very entertaining.
Coming up next is a reading of The Diviners and then the last full-stage production of the season, Cabaret. You'll find ticket information online at TacomaLittleTheatre.com.