High-stakes bets, mild sexual tension, and a healthy dose of farcical humor await viewers of Hot Summer Nights’ latest offering—Ken Ludwig’s “The Fox on the Fairway.” The story takes place in the tap room at the Quail Valley Golf and Country Club, thoroughly brought to life by Alex van Blommestein’s 80s-lodge-inspired set, complete with wood paneling and an authentic bar. Viewers are quickly introduced to bumbling Justin (Robbie Gay) on his first day of work at the club, which also happens to be the day of a major golf tournament. He’s joined by his steamy love interest, Louise (Kaila Merrill), a ditzy-but-sweet waitress at the club, and his incompetent boss, Henry Bingham (John Allore). Bingham gets talked into a high-stakes bet with golf-pro rival, Dickie Bell (John Heinis) and, in a desperate attempt to not lose…well…everything, he calls on Justin’s secret golfing skills. Other characters in this colorful cast include Pamela Peabody (Lynda Clark), Dickie’s embittered ex-wife whose harboring a secret crush, and Murial Bingham, Henry’s bulldozer-wife, hilariously portrayed by the gruff-voiced Pauline Cobrda.
Though the story is set in present-day, the script has a charmingly old-fashioned feel. It garners only a few timid laughs at first but picks up more and more speed. Though the story gets more ridiculous as it goes on—think a long-lost mother and daughter being reunited in a deus ex machina plot twist—Ludwig’s script eases viewers into the craziness so gradually that it goes off without a hitch. By the end of the show, the characters have come full circle in a backwards kind of way; though they start off as parodies of actual people and become even more contrived as the story goes on, they manage to come across as believable by the end, proving what an intriguing and confusing (in a good way!) playwright Ludwig is.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that these out-there characters are being brought to life by a supremely talented cast. Allore is all nervous movement—the archetype of the henpecked husband seen in 50s films (think Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch). He serves as a nice contrast to Heinis’ suavely stupid portrayal of Dickie, a performance made even stronger by the garish sweaters costume designer Denise Schumaker managed to rustle up. Gay proves a genius at physical comedy in his role as Justin, and it would be harder to find two sexier ladies than Clark and Merrill. Merrill is also adept at milking a scene, and her on-stage crying fits provide some of the show’s heartiest belly laughs. And, of course, the aforementioned Cobrda is also sexy in her own right—a perfect example of a strong woman comfortable in her skin and taking no crap from anybody.
The show even carries its unique brand of humor through to the curtain call, which is totally worth sticking around for—the characters replay key scenes from the entire show in a fast-paced series of frantic re-creations.
Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh presents THE FOX ON THE FAIRWAY at 8 p.m. July 13, 8 p.m. July 17-19, 2 and 8 p.m. July 20, and 3 p.m. July 21 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25 ($22 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655/1372696063763.
Hot Summer Nights: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/.
Theatre Raleigh: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/.
The Fox on the Fairway (2010 play): http://www.kenludwig.com/fox_on_the_fairway/a_fox_on_the_fairway.php (Ken Ludwig.com web page) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fox_on_the_Fairway (Wikipedia).
Ken Ludwig (playwright): http://www.kenludwig.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ludwig (Wikipedia).