Apex, NC’s Halle Cultural Arts Center hosts a theater company called The Peak Ensemble Players, and they have produced another winner with Ken Ludwig’s The Fox on the Fairway, a frantic farce directed by Kathleen Rudolph. But we expected no less.
Ludwig’s work has recently graced the Triangle Area with plenty of grins and giggles with the likes of Leading Ladies, Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, and Shakespeare in Hollywood. Likewise, Rudolph has directed several hits at the Halle, including Over the River and Through the Woods, Don’t Dress for Dinner, The Dining Room, Plaza Suite, and The Cocktail Hour.
With The Fox on the Fairway, The Halle now has “Ludwig plus Rudolph.” How could they miss?
The play’s premise is simple. Bingham and Dickie are presidents of two rival country clubs, and it is time for their annual golf tournament. Thinking that he has secret advantage, Bingham has agreed to an enormous wager. But wait! It would seem that Dickie has “outfoxed” him. No problem: Bingham soon discovers that he has an unexpected ace-in-the-hole and will win hands down. Or will he? Indeed, which fox will prevail on this fairway?
Meanwhile, Justin (Bingham’s brand-new employee) and Louise (a waitress in the clubhouse) are moving toward “happily ever after,” but just how smooth will this sailing be?
Louise (Bingham’s vice-president) and Muriel (his wife) manage to further complicate things, adding layers upon layers of laughs.
The dramatic action takes place in the Tap Room of Bingham’s Quail Valley Country Club. And, through a “Fourth-Wall” window, the characters are able to see, to react to, and to report on additional action taking place out on the golf course.
Chris Brown, as Bingham, once again proves himself to be a master of deadpan delivery. We could not imagine laughing any louder at such lines as “consolation prize?” and “one last grope?” It’s also fun to “watch the light bulbs turn on above Brown’s head,” as he finds he must resort to Plan B and then Plans C, D, E, and F.
Larry Evans shows that he is equally gifted in his portrayal of the cocky, arrogant, metaphor-mixing, fashion-clueless Dickie. When Dickie spews out such lines as “the sock’s on the other foot” and “a bird on the wing is worth two in the air,” Evans makes us believe that the character thinks he is uttering profound wisdom.
Speaking of cluelessness, suffice it to say that Jonathan King’s Justin and Rebecca Leonard’s Louise are perfectly matched. These two are earnestly innocent, clumsily well-meaning, downright air-headed, and a delight to watch. Leonard is a hoot as she recites (and paraphrases) Homeric verse. And King shows a streak of Tim Conway as Justin bumbles and fumbles his way along.
Jenny Anglum nails the role of Pamela, the vice president who shows a practical side as she always tries to make the best of things — and a sex-starved side (she is, after all, the survivor of several failed marriages).
Denise Michelle Penven-Crew rounds out the cast as Muriel, Bingham’s domineering wife. Penven-Crew makes it easy to believe Bingham’s fear of displeasing her. A side-note: Muriel is even funny when she is not onstage. Let’s just say that she “phones in” some of her humor.
But the strength in this performance is in the tightly drilled teamwork. This is high-stakes ensemble farce at its best. There are pratfalls and pulled-punches galore. There’s a “Which way did he go?” episode in which the young lovers cannot quite catch up with each other. And there’s an expensive antique vase that is central to a progression of comic gags. Who owns it? Who will own it? And will it survive? And just in case we don’t notice (or appreciate) the frantic pace of the chase, we get reminded: “I’m doing this in heels.”
In case all of that is not enough, the show starts with a series of one-liner jokes about golf (we were reminded of a certain sequence in the 1960’s TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In). Be aware, also, that there is an “Epilogue” of sorts (which is especially funny, because it does not happen at the very end); and there is a pantomimed sequence reminiscent of the Elizabethan era “dumbshows,” but once again, it does not take place when we would expect it to. Did we actually see a conga line at some point? And did we hear a familiar name read out from the club’s membership list?
Scenic designer Thomas Mauney creates a believable interior of the Quail Valley clubhouse, lighting designer Barry Jaked illuminates it well, and sound designer John Maruca supplies proper auditory effects. A special tip of the hat to costume designer Jeremy Clos for making sure Dickey always looked appropriately ridiculous (while making all the other characters look good).
Last Friday’s opening-night crowd loved The Fox on the Fairway, and so did we. There are three remaining performances at the Halle Cultural Arts Center: at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13th and 14th, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15th.
The Peak Ensemble Players present THE FOX ON THE FAIRWAY at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 and 14 and 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Halle Cultural Arts Center, 237 N. Salem St., Apex, North Carolina 27502.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 seniors).
BOX OFFICE: 919-249-1120. SHOW: http://thehalle.org/1183/The-Fox-On-The-Fairway-Fall-Play.
The Fox on the Fairway (2010 comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/873/fox-on-the-fairway-a (Samuel French, Inc.), 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 (York, PA-born playwright and screenwriter): http://www.kenludwig.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ken-ludwig-7069 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0525024/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ludwig (Wikipedia).
Kathleen Rudolph (director and associate education director): https://raleighlittletheatre.org/people/kathleen-rudolph/ (RLT bio).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.