Review: ‘The Fox on the Fairway’ isn’t quite a hole-in-one

Posted Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Fox on the Fairway • Through Aug. 11 • Stage West 821 W. Vickery Blvd. Fort Worth • 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays • $28-$32 • 817-784-9378; www.stagewest .org

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This show must be about golf because everybody in it is pretty teed off.

But out of these links-inspired conflicts arises The Fox on the Fairway, a wacky little comedy about love and sinking putts that opened Saturday at Stage West.

The driving force in this 18-hole farce is an annual tournament between two rival golf clubs, Quail Valley (the good guys) and Crouching Squirrel (the bad guys). The former is run by the harried, but likeable, Bingham (Mark Fickert), and the latter by the oily and odious Dickie (Kim Titus). These bitter competitors place a large wager on the outcome of the tournament that includes the forfeiture of the antique shop operated by Bingham’s wife, Muriel (Kelly Thomas).

The prospects look grim for perennial loser Quail Valley, until Bingham finds a ringer in his new employee, Justin (Steven Martin), who has just become engaged to a fellow worker at the club, Louise (Emily Davenport). Standing on the periphery of this madness (in one stunning outfit after another) is Dickie’s ex-wife Pamela (Sherry Hopkins), who now holds an executive position at Quail Valley.

Not surprisingly, the poor unsuspecting tournament is crushed under the weight of all this financial and romantic pressure (as well as the saga of Muriel’s expensive vase). Suffice it to say that if you think you can imagine everything that could possibly go wrong at a golf tournament, you haven’t seen this show.

All of this silliness is smacked off the tee smartly by an excellent cast. Fickert and Hopkins are especially good together. Many of their exchanges absolutely crackle with sharp comic timing. Davenport brings a great deal of enthusiasm to her goofy part. Thomas is a scream as she plows through the show like a bulldozer. Only Martin, one of the younger cast members, is overmatched by the material.

Director Robin Armstrong has a gift for effectively directing the traffic and accentuating the physical comedy in shows such as these. In this, her first production at Stage West, Armstrong displays the comedy chops that she has demonstrated so well in other area theaters. The only exception is that the slapstick elements in this show do not always work as well as they have in other Armstrong efforts.

The costume design, credited to Michael Robinson/Dallas Costume Shoppe, deserves a nod for Hopkins’ attire and the atrocious sweaters worn by Titus. Jim Covault’s set, done in deep greens, is also a pleasure to take in.

As far as the show itself goes, Ken Ludwig’s script has some weak points. A lot of the humor is either sitcom-ordinary or downright corny. It often begs for its laughs, and the long arm of coincidence has seldom had greater reach than in this story.

While the cast list is brimming with fine actors, few of them physically match their roles or their romantic interests. Fickert is great in everyman roles, but he lacks the patrician sheen needed for his country club character. Titus comes closer in his role, but he is not credible as the Lothario he is supposed to be. Thomas is loudly hilarious, but the script dictates that the actress playing her be much more masculine in appearance.

So it is a little bit of a problem to watch these outstanding performers in roles for which they are not exactly right (and in a show that you want to be just a bit funnier). But, on the whole, everybody involved is so good that it is a joy just to watch them play through.

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