“A Fox on the Fairway” Hits a Hole in One at Meadow Brook

Photo courtesy of Meadow Brook Theatre.

PLAY REVIEW

PLAY REVIEW by Suzanne Angeo (member, American Theatre Critics Association) and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)

A good farce, well-executed, is probably the most fun you can have in the theater. It won’t necessarily change your life or point of view, but it can offer the best kind of escape. It’s got the elusively buoyant quality of a souffle; if even one element is off, the whole thing collapses.

Meadow Brook Theatre’s presentation of “A Fox on the Fairway,” Ken Ludwig’s rowdy, light-hearted homage to classic farce, is a well-turned out confection that’s sure to please. First presented in Virginia in 2010, it’s got all the door-slamming, romantic intrigue and embarrassing predicaments anyone could wish for, with a happy ending, of course.

Ludwig is perhaps best known for his Tony-Award winning smash Broadway hit “Lend Me A Tenor,” another farce of the highest order. Like that souffle, the ingredients – as well as the execution – are of critical importance, and “Fox” has the best of both.

Supple, attentive direction by Travis Walter maintains the gleefully frenetic, tight-as-a-drum pacing so essential to the success of the show. At times the six cast members seem to bounce off of each other like pinballs, each one holding up their part in the crazy game. The massive set by Brian Kessler presents us with a gorgeous vista, so welcome in the deeps of January gloom – a green sweep of a golf course – summer grass and graceful trees seen through the high windows of the Quail Valley Country Clubhouse.

One by one, the characters emerge with clever one-off lines about sex, life, and of course, golf. We learn that just about everybody loves somebody else with a mad passion, treachery is afoot, and the annual tournament between Quail Valley and its archrival, Crouching Squirrel Country Club, carries stakes higher than anyone can imagine. New assistant Justin (Lucas Wells) gets engaged to waitress Louise (Olivia Ursu), and it turns out they both have hidden talents. Quail Valley’s president, Henry Bingham (Wayne David Parker channeling Mel Brooks) goes head-to-head with his nemesis, the notorious Dickie Bell (Phil Powers), president of Crouching Squirrel. Henry’s formidable wife Muriel (Stephanie Nichols) has her suspicions whenever Henry’s lovely vice president Pamela Peabody (Cheryl Turski) is around, which is often.

Each of the ensemble cast is excellent in their own right, and there are many memorable moments, but one that brought down the house is – shall we call it – the Dance of the Oyster Woman?

Sure, some of the jokes are groanworthy and the action is a bit formulaic, but the story is so entertaining, and it’s in good fun, after all. Mention must be made of the outstanding lighting effects by Reid G Johnson, which reflects changes in the time of day and weather at Quail Valley, and any altered mental states experienced by the characters.

“A Fox on the Fairway” is a fun romp, a madcap adventure not to be missed, playing now through February 3 at Meadow Brook Theatre at Wilson Hall on the campus of Oakland University. Tickets range from $36 to $45.

For more information and tickets, call 248-377-3300 or mbtheatre.com/.