To revive an axiom that President Obama directed at the ideas of a certain failed vice presidential candidate from Alaska: Actors' Playhouse's production of The Fox on the Fairway is, at best, lipstick on a pig. As pretty as the company presents it, it's still an ugly, desperate, virtually witless thing -- a madcap farce with as about as many laughs as an average PBS NewsHour. It's been a uniformly successful season for Actors' Playhouse, but I suppose even superior car lots have jalopies.
An homage to English farces of the 1930s, The Fox on the Fairway is the latest effort from Ken Ludwig, an American playwright specializing in old-timey audience-pleasers that tend to make Neil Simon look edgy. His most famous work, Lend Me a Tenor, about mistaken identity and other shenanigans at an opera house, can be an awfully funny night at the theater. But The Fox is a hopeless case. Even in a production chockablock with top South Florida talent, the play feels woefully uninspired, a wheezy example of exhausted escapism.
It's set in the taproom of a country club named Quail Valley, which is preparing for its annual golf tournament against rival club Crouching Squirrel. Mr. Bingham (Ken Clement), Quail Valley's golf director, has been on a losing streak in recent years, but this time he has an ace up his sleeve: a young whiz on the links, slotted into the tourney at the last minute, who seems destined to carry his club to victory. Seconds after making a $200,000 bet with Crouching Squirrel director Dickie (Todd Allen Durkin), Bingham discovers his top player has defected to the Squirrels.
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But it just so happens that Bingham has his own star: a new hire at the country club named Justin (Clay Cartland), an amateur with an astounding average in the mid-60s. As the tournament commences, Justin seems to be dominating. But then a bombshell from his dim fiancée, Louise (Betsy Graver), threatens to torpedo his performance.
And so it goes, with increasingly over-the-top zaniness -- switchups and revelations, slammed doors and drunken dances, broken arms and busted PA systems, and plenty of strange couplings and bad golf puns. When Louise proclaims she kissed Justin's balls for good luck, as he clutches a pair of white Titleists, it's indicative of the show's maturity level.