Critics have given a mixed reception to Ken Ludwig’s 2010 farce about golf. But while the annals of theater will never mark a hole-in-one for the piece, compared to his great hits Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo, it is equally wrong to say he has unwittingly landed his ball in the sand trap of cliché. The putt is intentional. Ludwig is too scratch a writer, too versed in Shakespeare and Sheridan to fall off the fairway accidently. You will find all of the time-tested devices of farce — rapid pace; a wildly ricocheting plot; bawdy antics and innuendo; concealed identities; revolving door entrances and exits — updated and dressed for the taproom of a modern country club. The Fox on the Fairway is Ludwig’s homage to the English comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, and director Sean O’Shea and the actors of Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre capture that characteristic spirit of fun.
An enthusiastic audience crowded the barn theater for this first Saturday performance of the six-week run, while the actors showed impressive form and timing, especially in light of the pace and complexity of the piece. The cast of six — all Circle Bar B veterans — included Jon Koons as Bingham, director of Quail Valley Country Club; Rodney Baker as Dickie, director of the rival club; Kathy Marden as Muriel, Bingham’s domineering wife; Anne Guynn as Pamela, Bingham’s assistant and former flame; George Coe as Justin; and Katherine Bottoms as Louise, his fiancée, both employees at Quail Valley. The central conceit of Fairway is an extravagant wager between the rival directors concerning their annual golf tournament. Koons excels as the suave yet desperately competitive Bingham, a performance that ties this piece together. Coe and Bottoms are well-matched as the absurdly manic lovers, whose mood swings determine Bingham’s fortune.
While Ludwig admires dramatic architecture and aims for a neat resolution, the clubs don’t really slip back into the bag artfully. Nevertheless, the fun is not diminished by a few seams. Besides, in the words of Louise, “Golf is easy. The first thing you do is buy clothes that don’t match.”