Michael Mastro, Amy Hohn and Peter Scolari

Credit: T. Charles Erickson


Rip-roaring Hilarious:"Fox and the Fairway' opens at George Street Playhouse

Written by
CHARLES PAOLINO for My Central Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK — There is a scene in Ken Ludwig's farce "The Fox on the Fairway" that symbolizes the spirit of the whole play.

It's a hectic minute or so in which the characters race around the set in a faux state of chaos, tossing a "valuable" vase from one to the other while the audience holds its collective breath. It's the kind of risk only confident performers would take on — drop that vase and the thud would be deafening — and it's the kind of execution only highly disciplined performers can pull off.

The cast of the George Street Playhouse production of Ludwig's play, under the direction of David Saint, has the confidence and the discipline, and that makes the difference — so important in farce — between silly and rip-roaring hilarious.

The story takes place at the Quail Valley Country Club which annually competes in a tournament against its rival, the Crouching Squirrel Club. Quail Valley has made a habit of losing these tournaments and stands to lose one more since its best player has recently switched to Crouching Squirrel. Quail Valley director Henry Bingham, played by TV and stage veteran Peter Scolari, slips in his new assistant, Justin (Reggie Gowland), as a ringer after learning that Justin swings a mean club — when he's emotionally placid.

Bingham's exorbitant wager with rival club manager Dickie Bell (Michael Mastro) and a speed bump in Justin's love life stir up the whirlwind that envelops everyone involved. The story is told with all the exits and entrances and double entendres and tangled relationships that are essential to farce.

Scolari plays Bingham as a woebegone but likable bungler that the audience can hardly help rooting for. Mastro — who directed "The Subject Was Roses" at George Street this season — makes the sartorially hopeless, self-absorbed, teasing Dickie Bell into a truly comical antagonist. Gowland is adorable as the gawky, love-struck young golfer, and Lisa McCormick is a giddy, perpetual-motion knockout as Justin's fiancee, Louise. Amy Hohn is endearing as the earthy, boozy Pamela Peabody, a Quail Valley board member, who was a childhood friend of Bingham, with whom she shared one date — but a memorable one, as it turns out. And Mary Testa, who appeared at George Street in Ludwig's popular farce "Lend Me a Tenor," is a stitch as Muriel Bingham, Henry's battleship of a wife.

David Saint and this ensemble have fine-tuned a combination of rapid-fire dialogue and strenuous physicality into a comedy that dares the audience to catch its breath. The actors have thrown themselves into this show with no sign of caution, and the result is farce raised to an art.

"The Fox on the Fairway" is played on a set by the masterful Michael Anania, who captures the comfortable, self-assured ambience of a country club taproom that contrasts nicely with the mayhem taking place within its walls.

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