Rep's 'Fairway' is good summertime laugh
Building a good farce is like building a good golf course. Make the laughs, or the golf shots, too easy and everyone soon loses interest.
Ken Ludwig's "The Fox on the Fairway," which opened Friday at the Rochester Repertory Theatre, avoids that sand trap. Sure, parts of this spoof of British farces are as predictable as the sunrise. But the devil is in the details, and in that regard, Ludwig has done what he set out to do: construct an air-tight plot that has clever dialog and characters we enjoy spending time with.
The latter idea — that these madcap folks hanging out on tournament weekend at the Quail Valley Country Club are more than stick figures — receives a huge boost from the cast assembled by director Bill Schnell.
Teeing off first is Nick Rudlong, he of the bulging eyes and rubbery face, whose character, Justin, is in love with Louise, a barmaid at the golf club. Louise is played by Christina Stier, who has a hometown girl quality that is perfect for this role.
Then there's Angus Russell, as long-suffering club manager Mr. Bingham, and Nikki Campbell as his not-so-secret love, Pamela Peabody. Russell and Campbell have their funniest moments when they're playing off the tension their simmering love affair creates.
Also, we have Doug Petty, who usually plays stuffy types well but here adds a healthy dose of loose-limbed comedy to his routine as Dickie, the haughty head of a rival golf club. And finally, as Mrs. Bingham, there's Cheryl Frarck, who can create more laughs with a raised eyebrow than anyone else on local stages. She also proves to be quite skillful at swinging a rolled-up Post-Bulletin at her husband.
Ludwig's plot is ingenious, and involves a golf tournament, Justin and Louise's on-again-off-again engagement, the Mr. Bingham-Mrs. Bingham-Pamela triangle, a lost ring, new-found parents and a surprise or two or three. You've seen some of this before in other farces, but the show is fast-paced and fast-moving — like being in the first foursome of the day on the local par 3 course.
Along the way, Schnell resists the urge to go overboard with slamming doors and slapstick. And he doesn't pretend that Ludwig's play is anything more than a good laugh on a summer evening.
"The Fox on the Fairway" continues through July 13 at the Rochester Repertory Theatre. For tickets, call 507-289-1737.