The Fox on the Fairway, debuting on national stages in 2010, is Ken Ludwig’s newest play. The author of Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo and Leading Ladies, which Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre did a bang-up job with a few years ago, he offers this salute to the madcap English farces of the 1930s and '40s.
True to form for this style, the characters are broad, the ensemble is tight and the staging is often scintillatingly complex. Directed with a sure hand by CBB veteran Sean O’Shea, this is a rollicking good time — a chance to let loose and laugh at the foibles and faux pas of our fellow humans, while surely recognizing at least a little of ourselves in them.
There is the jaded country club owner, Mr. Bingham (Jon Koons), his assistant, the equally world-weary society gal Pamela (Anne Guynn), and their possible secret past. Koons is solid, anchoring the action that swirls around him, and Guynn brings bombshell looks and smarts, too, to the part.
We have the young hero, Justin (George Coe), and the ingénue, Louise (Katherine Bottoms), both employees of the club, who get engaged within their first few minutes onstage, then after a mishap, spend the rest of the play trying to mend their relationship and win the annual golf tournament around which the action revolves.
As Mrs. Bingham, the stereotypical battle-axe who harbors a little-known softer side, Kathy Marden plays a delightfully against-type role, complete with a stern black wig. And the rival club owner, Dickie (Rodney Baker), who always knows when to pop up and keep things interesting with his barbed repartee, has a deliciously competitive relationship with Bingham, ending with some unanticipated spoils going to the victor.
These actors, none strangers to this tiny stage, all do a wonderful job of moving the action along and balancing each other out. The business with a precious vase is well-choreographed, to be sure, as are the flurry of entrances, exits and slamming doors.
The best thing about a play like this is that everything wraps up neatly and tidily. We have seen these characters go through their comical trials, and then we get to be glad when in the end, secrets have been revealed, everyone is paired up and everyone is happy.
The best thing about Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre, besides the delicious food and top-rate local theater, is the atmosphere of welcoming and casual comfort that prevails. Producers Susie and David Couch are consummate hosts, making audiences feel as if they’ve been invited to a gracious ranch-like home for dinner and entertainment. And Susie’s set changes between acts in knee-high argyle socks are not to be missed!
There are two more weekends to enjoy this clever comedy, through Sept. 8, and then the season will close with Noises Off starting Sept. 20. Click here for tickets and more information.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.