A country club golf tournament would seem to be the perfect setting for a modern day farce. There are snobby members to caricature, harried staff to run around the stage, and lots of opportunities for jokes about balls and holes. And indeed, the cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s The Fox on the Fairway exploited just about every comic convention in the pursuit of pulling off this madcap comedy by Ken Ludwig.
I must credit the cast and crew of The Fox on the Fairway for making the best of a deeply flawed script, and for injecting energy and humor into the production. The dialogue was plodding when it needed to be wacky, wordy when it needed to be brief, and rushed where it needed to be fleshed out. When the actors could run like crazed chickens through doors and around corners, when they could play hot potato with a valuable antique, or engage in any other ridiculous physical comedy, the show popped and the audience was in stitches. They were real troupers!
Mr. Bingham runs the prestigious Quail Valley Country Club which, although it maintains a year long waiting list for membership, has been unsuccessful for five years running at defeating archrival Crouching Squirell Country Club in their annual golf tournament. But this year Mr. Bingham, played marvelously by Brian Binney, has a secret weapon, and with this in mind he makes a high-stakes wager with his enemy Club President, Dickie (Andy Megri). What follows are many ups and downs for both Bingham and Dickey as they seek to gain the upper hand in the tournament. Meanwhile, Justin (Alex Hyder) and Louise (Erica Mueller) are a newly engaged couple of Quail Valley employees who struggle to keep their romance alive while being ensnared in Bingham and Dickey’s goofy golf bet.
Brian Binney is the linchpin of this show. He appears natural and relaxed on stage, even when Bingham is in the throes of comic histrionics. I could believe the wacky twists and turns of the plot because of Binney’s unshakeable commitment, and he consistently played each and every beat during the two hour show. I was most engaged in the scenes between he and his cheerfully alcoholic Quail Valley Vice President, Pamela (Rosalie Daelemans). The chemistry between these two popped on stage, and acted as the emotional anchor of a show that otherwise would have lacked a solid emotional foundation. Director John Degnan does a nice job at varying the staging well enough to keep the physicality interesting, and at guiding his cast through characters that are clunky at best.
Bingham and Pamela are eventually caught in a bizarre love-square with nemesis Dickey and Bingham’s wife Muriel (Carole Long). Ms. Long, who unfortunately doesn’t appear till close to the end of the first act, manages to meld Auntie Mame with Kathy Bates in Misery to form a ferocious and wonderful character. Like most of the cast, Ms. Long played the emotional extremes where they were called for, hit her marks when she needed to, and was for the most part a true pleasure to watch on stage. Likewise, the green-paneled “Tap Room”, designed by Keith Brown, complete with squishy furniture and paintings of 19th century golfers, was impressive, as were the deliciously tacky costumes designed by Gayle Negri, worn by the cast.
I would love to see this energetic cast and talented crew in a production of a successful modern farce like Noises Off, or even a true classical farce like Tartuffe or The Importance of Being Earnest. As it is, Prince George’s Little Theatre has sent their best team of golfers to complete on a course replete with sand traps, water hazards and wild animals. They took a great swing at it and produced a pretty good round of golf and laughs.
The Fox on the Fairway has one performance remaining today, May 18th, at 2 PM at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse-in Whitemarsh Park-16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or call the box office at (301) 937-7458.