Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Fox on the Fairway at the Toledo Rep

Last Saturday night we went to see The Fox on the Fairway at the The Toledo Repertoire Theatre (16 10th St.; Toledo, OH 43604; (419) 243-9277).  I've always enjoyed live theater much more than film, to the point that even a poorly produced play is more enjoyable than a five star film.

Here is where I hear some theater company saying, "If only there were a few hundred thousand more like you, Mad Jack."  Sure thing, Virginia, and if there were the tickets in the front row at The Rep would be two-and-a-half bills each if you could get them, which you couldn't because the politburo fat heads would threaten the theater with building and fire inspections unless the city council and their inbred friends got the first five rows all to themselves on opening night.

Okay, I'm finished digressing.  Keep reading to learn my considered opinion about foxes, fairways and the latest play.

Fox on the Fairway

Cutting right to the chase, The Fox on the Fairway is a comedy with a degree of farce sprinkled on top.  The good news is that it's a funny comedy, with plenty of one-liners including some ad-lib about local politicians.  It's an active play, with a lot of running around and a pratfall or two.  The bad news is - well, there isn't any, although I suppose if you were not in the mood for a comedy you'd be unhappy for a while.  Eventually you'd be cheered up.

The plot revolves around an annual country club golf tournament and a sizable wager placed on the outcome.  Between the cup and the lip the principals tear around after each other desperately trying to fulfill their own agendas, and that's all I'm going to say on the subject.  I refuse to write spoilers.

The play is directed by Carol Ann Erford, who managed to bring out the best in a cast of six talented actors, who actually look the parts that they're playing.  This is likely not an easy play to direct due to the action involved.  If you can't get the actors to energize themselves, the play won't work.  Carol Ann managed to do all that and a little more, and since we haven't read about any SWAT team raids on the theater I'll assume she did it without resorting to threats involving a shotgun and a boat ride on Lake Erie.  Another thing I liked about the production was that they got around to filling the liquor bottles with liquid.  This seems like a small thing, but when I went to see I Hate Hamlet, the cast was busy pantomiming pouring drinks from empty bottles which was a major, major detraction.

Here's the cast and a quick review of their performances, without spoilers.

Katherine Abu-Absi as Pamela.  Pamela is the older, wiser and somewhat lascivious woman who has reached that happy stage in her life where she isn't a bit shy about reaching out and grabbing a handful of someone that takes her fancy.  Katherine does a great job with this.  She has one drunken scene with Lane Hakel that she pulls off with absolute perfection, and another where she gives Doug Kruse a look that set off the fire alarm across the street.

Ashley Gage as Louise.  Louise is young, blonde and not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  The words bubble headed and irrational come to mind, yet men tend to fall all over her.  So, she must have other talents, right?  Let's be blunt here.  Ashley is hotter than a five dollar pistol on Saturday night, which makes her a natural for Louise.  The greatest news about this is that I got to ruin my diet with eye candy, and Ashley really can act.  The role of Louise calls for a lot of red hot, seductive activity, and Ashley Gage delivers in fine style.

Lane Hakel as Bingham.  Bingham is the older, somewhat cynical counterpart to Pamela.  Lane plays the character with a British flavor to him, reminding me of a BBC comedy of some sort.  Although it took Lane about twenty minutes to get started into the role, once he was underway and warmed up Lane really delivered.  One very memorable drunken scene that Lane played with Katherine (Pamela) was incredibly good.

J. Heath Huber as Dickie.  Dickie is the villain here, and Huber does an excellent job of playing the snarky, scheming Dickie.  Huber plays Dickie perfectly, never stepping on a line or upstaging anyone.  The man contributes heavily to the outstanding quality of the overall production.

Kari Kapszukiewicz as Muriel.  Muriel is the bulldozer wife of Bingham, a part that Kari brings off very nicely.  It would be easy to overplay this role, but Kari gives it just the right amount of comic menace to keep the action rolling along.

Doug Kruse as Justin.  Justin is a young train wreck looking for a stalled out load of produce on a crossing.  The role requires a lot of physical activity on stage along with double takes and a perpetual vacant, puzzled look.  Doug Kruse is able to bring this off, but only after he gets warmed up.  The first 15 to 20 minutes are cold, especially compared to the rest of the play.

I only have one criticism of the performance: it took the cast time to warm up.  The first fifteen or twenty minutes of the play are very vigorous, with the cast running on and off stage, and they don't do it all that well.  This is mainly the men I'm criticizing here, but the entire cast is guilty.  After fifteen minutes everyone is warmed up and the play comes off in fine style.  Up until then - not so much.

My other complaint is with the people they let into the theater.  I went with Mom, Main Lady and Mopsy.  Our seats were in the second row, just right of center.  Mom and I sat down and three fat old ladies filed in after us.  The woman next to me was hacking and coughing all over the place, and for reasons best known to herself refused to smother her coughs with a handkerchief.  Given the current flu pandemic, I finally asked her why she'd come out in public if she were sick.  She replied cheerfully that she had chronic bronchitis, then proceeded to hog the arm rest.  When Main Lady and Mopsy showed up, Mom and I moved down two seats so that poor Mopsy got stuck with the fat flu lady.  Okay, sue me.  I'm not above throwing my friends and family to the sharks.

So I got the donkey broad.  The woman seated behind me didn't laugh so much as she brayed.  And shouted.  And brayed some more.  Laughter is fine, and it's a nice thing to hear.  Especially at a comedy, where everyone is supposed to be enjoying themselves.  This honker?  Forget it.  By the time we hit intermission I had a headache from the incessant, raucous laugh behind me.  Right after the lights came up I realized my ears were ringing and my headache was much worse.  My only consolation is that the donkey lady, a large blonde woman wearing too much makeup, was with 'the girls'.  I've heard it said that there's someone for everyone.  I guess she couldn't find a deaf man to marry her.

In spite of my bad experience with the fat flu lady and the donkey broad, I'm giving the play an 8 out of 10 stars on the scale of theater excellence.  This one of the good ones, and if you haven't seen it yet, by all means break loose with a double sawbuck and go.  It's likely the smartest money you'll spend this month.


CWMartin said...

Maybe you should see if the local paper needs a "crowd reviewer". Sometimes those might end up better than the play.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks CW. Crowd reviews might be more interesting, anyway.

I really did enjoy the play, and I was sorely tempted to tell the donkey lady to keep the racket down to an OSHA standards minimum, seeing as how no one was wearing ear protection. Main Lady and Mom were both with me, so I was forced to behave myself.

Solleks said...

I saw your post on Toledo Talk and quickly snapped up some tickets. We had a great time and really enjoyed the play. Thanks for the idea. It was nice to change the pace up a bit and try something different.

Mad Jack said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it!