- Connecticut Critic
I admit I am not a golfer. Walking into the newly remodeled Milford Arts Council’s Eastbound Theatre to see the opening of Ken Ludwig’s “Fox on the Fairway,” I thought, “Well, I hate golf, so if I laugh at all, they will be ahead of the game.” I also knew that since I don’t know the game, any review I write would be devoid of witty golf terms or references but I was mistaken. Because Eastbound Theatre has hit a hole-in-one with this gut-busting, rollicking farce! I laughed so hard at times that my head hurt. It has been quite a while since I’ve had so much fun at a show.
Like any good farce, the plot is a bit convoluted, involving a newly engaged couple, a lost engagement ring, a golf tournament between rival country clubs, an exorbitant bet by the clubs’ respective presidents, unhappy couples, an antiques shop, drunkenness, and family ties. What makes this production so outstanding is how the abundantly talented cast, the sets, the props, the costumes, the sound, and the direction seamlessly mesh together, so that the story with all of its absurd elements seems to work out to a satisfying end.
This is in large part due to the enormously talented cast, who are able to play their roles with controlled facial expressions, body language and nuances in inflection as well as excel at the broadest of physical comedy. Brian Michael Riley plays Bingham, president of the golf club. Mr. Riley’s first lines are dripping with delicious sarcasm and he hilariously embodies a physical manifestation with every line and emotion his character feels. Cecilia Kurachi Ubé, is Louise, the newly engaged waitress. Her face reads like an open book with each changing emotion of her character. Her non-verbal expressions speak volumes and she is a joy to watch. Margie Johnson, whose performance reminded me of actress Melora Hardin, plays Pamela, the cynical club vice-president, with understated brilliance. She is very good at playing a jaded woman as well as performing broad comedy as evidenced by a particularly funny dance with an oyster. (You have to see it to believe it.)
Others in the cast include Barry Hatrick, delivering an appropriately oily performance as Dickie, the president of the rival club, who is a conniving businessman and serial womanizer despite his malapropisms and ridiculous sweaters; Kiel Stango as the young Justin, accidental golf pro and earnest fiancé of Louise, who shines as his character goes from “gosh, darn, it, I’m such a good guy” to quivering bowl of anxious nerves when his best laid plans go astray; and finally Sarah Springer as Muriel, who dominates the stage as Bingham’s harridan of a wife, which she performs to a T.
The entire cast certainly holds nothing back when it comes to this complex comedy. The person responsible for reining in the madness is director and set designer Kevin Pelkey. He has built the perfect set: it does look like a lounge in a well-to-do golf club with the added addition of a bar, lots of doors to slam and a hidden corridor that in itself adds a fresh element to the farce. Mr. Pelkey’s direction is top-notch and no ordinary feat. He keeps the show at an almost perfect pace (my one complaint is I missed a particular golf joke because it was delivered a bit too fast). The blocking was a marvel to behold. It was more like an intricately choreographed dance as the actors moved around and through the set; at certain times presenting unforgettable and hilarious tableaus that drew some of the biggest laughs.
The production staff should also be congratulated for their contributions to the wonderful evening. Donald Rowe provided the lighting design, and Karen Quinn-Panzer provided the inspired costumes, with special kudos for the gowns and the crazy sweaters. Special thanks should also be given to Tom Rushen for sound design, especially since his brilliant sound effects contributed to some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
“Fox on the Fairway” runs through October 16th at Milford’s Eastbound Theatre. Visit http://milfordarts.org/eastbound-theatre/ for details. I highly recommend this high-spirited farce for an evening full of fun!
Photo: L to R: Cecilia Kurache Ubé, Margie Johnson, Sarah Springer, Kiel Stango, Barry Hatrick, and Brian Michael Riley