Kyle Sorrell and Kevin Bailey in The Fox on the Fairway at North Coast Rep
It’s tournament weekend at Quail Valley Country Club. They have their annual match with a dreaded — albeit evil — opponent. Crouching Squirrel C.C. has better golfers and just absconded with Quail Valley’s only decent player.
But wait! What about Justin? Old man Bingham just hired the hypersensitive young man to work for Quail Valley. Can he play? Naw. Says his game’s too inconsistent: one day 66, the next 69. Even his misses go 300 yards, dead down the sprinker-line. And he can putt on glass, when his nerves are steady.
So he can play! This enables Bingham and rival Dickie Bell to engage in their pet hobby: degenerate gambling. They bet six figures on the match, and if they had one, they’d throw in the farm. Instead, it’s Bingham’s wife Muriel’s store.
Jacquelyn Ritz and Roxane Carrasco in The Fox on the Fairway at North Coast Rep
All rides on Justin’s nerves, a rain-out, and enough farcical shenanigans for a performance-anxiety nightmare.
In its program for The Fox on the Fairway, the North Coast Repertory Theatre includes a long note by playwright Ken Ludwig. True farce, he says, is not an “emotional” or “intellectual” comedy. It is intricate, silly, situation-driven. Done well, he says, when everything comes together in the end, the audience should experience a kind of catharsis. Farce, in effect, is about starting and putting out a forest fire, not the individual trees.
Ludwig’s note’s a useful tip for audiences considering North Coast Rep’s show. It starts low and stays low and frantic. It has no redeeming social value. The characters are broadly played, one-note types. And the situations are goofy (sometimes with set pieces padding in between, and the occasional lag in the script). Go there expecting light comedy lite.
And it works, pretty much, thanks to director Matthew Wiener and his well-honed ensemble cast: Kevin Bailey (harried Bingham), Brian Salmon (conniving Dickie Bell), Jacquelin Ritz (intrigue-loving Pamela Peabody), Kyle Sorrell (astoundingly twitchy Justin), Ashley Stults (minus-IQ’d Louise Heindbedder), and Roxanne Carrasco (Murial Bingham, runaway train).
Marty Burnett’s beautifully detailed set, the Quail Valley tap room, could fit right in up the street at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club (where Kevin Fleming taught a generation of golfers to “chip like you putt”). And Elisa Benzoni created one of the year’s most impressive costume designs: slinky, poured-in cocktail dresses; Bingham’s tasteful knickers; Dickie’s godawful, yellow/red streaky sweater, which she follows up with a scotch plaid suit, yellow shirt, blazing red cummerbund — obviously from the No Couture rack at Schlock R Us.
Ludwig shamelessly “recycles” old golf jokes. About the only one he missed is Phil Harris’ grave warning: “If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.”