Category Archive for: ‘Woody Weingarten’

Farce forlornly fumbles foolishness on fairway

Woody’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Filling center stage in “The Fox on the Fairway” are (from left) Javier Alarcon as Dickie, Louis Schilling as Bingham, Eileen Fisher as Pamela, Derek Jepson as Justin, and Sumi Narendran as Muriel. Photo by Robin Jackson.

Justin (Derek Jepson) pleads with his bride-to-be, Louise (Lydia Singleton), in “The Fox on the Fairway” as Bingham (Louis Schilling) and Pamela (Eileen Fisher) look on. Photo by Robin Jackson.

You can be sure when a critic emphasizes costumes and set early in a review, giant imperfections stifle the production.

That being said, let me state unequivocally that costumes designed by Michael A. Berg in “The Fox on the Fairway,” the Ross Valley Players’ latest production, are first rate.

They instantly differentiate the characters.

And the 19th-hole set — including frequently swinging doors that become a focal point of the farce — accomplishes precisely what designer Ken Rowland intends.

Acting by each member of the six-person cast is admirable as well.

And director Julianna Rees keeps the pace so frenetic that the 100-minute show whizzes by.

The night I went, the RVP audience showed appreciation with sporadic laughter and vigorous applause at the end.

Yet the script of “Fox” is riddled with holes (and I’m not talking about the cups golf balls fall into) and predicable bits of business.

With cliché heaped on cliché.

Credulity in farces is often strained, but here it’s stretched as thin as a piece of limp Swiss cheese left too long in the sun.

Lightweight playwright Ken Ludwig, whom many once believed would be an appropriate successor to Neil Simon as the theatrical world’s comedy king, has become a master of playing it safe.

Perhaps that’s why his work has been seen in 30 countries in more than 20 languages, often in community theaters similar to that of the RVP.

Yes, his original “Lend Me a Tenor” and his adaptation of “Twentieth Century” did provide amusement (both were staged by the RVP). And  “Leading Ladies” (the Novato Theatre just did it) was enjoyable to watch.

But “The Fox on the Fairway” relies on old saws such as endless malapropisms and precious sexual innuendos, a lost engagement ring, the threatened destruction of a valuable vase, continued links between ex-spouses, a melodramatic revelation about parentage, and, of course, the making of a 90-foot putt.

All that and I’m still not sure who or what the fox is.

I do know, however, that the convoluted plot twists, as most farces are wont to do, come fast and furiously.

The president of the Quail Valley Country Club, Henry Bingham (played by Louis Schilling with suitable bluster) learns the golfer he thought could deliver a grudge match victory over Dickie Bell (Javier Alarcon), who heads the rival Crouching Squirrel facility and wears one ugly sweater after another, has switched loyalties.

Bingham, who’s made a six-figure bet he can’t afford, recruits Justin (an appropriately wide-eyed and awkward Derek Jepsen), a newly hired assistant, and engineers his club membership.

The hotshot, unfortunately, breaks his arm after building up a nine-stroke lead, so…

And while a non-logical frenzy swirls about everyone, Jepsen as a befuddled almost-hero, Eileen Fisher as a lust-laden Pamela and Sumi Narendran as a testosterone-oozing Muriel turn in exceptional performances.

“Fox,” first staged in 2010, was written in reverence to the English farces that began in the 1880s and flourished in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s.

Maybe that’s why it sometimes feels as if its use-before date has passed.

“The Fox on the Fairway“ will run at The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, through Oct. 12. Night performances, Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8; matinees, Sundays at 2. Tickets: $14-$29. Information: www.rossvalleyplayers.comor (415) 456-9555.