Stage Right's season-ending farce makes use of Fox Chapel area's love of fairway
There's a good reason why Stage Right Community Theatre is drawn to award-winning American playwright Ken Ludwig's work, Stage Right's president and artistic director Bill Ivins says.
“His plays are funny,” he says. “The writing is fast-paced and clever, with nice twists and comic absurdity. There are mistaken identities, quick wit, sweet innuendo, lots of door slamming and silly costumes.”
The situations in his stories usually spiral wildly out of control, but somehow they always seem to wind up being resolved with a happy ending, he says.
“The guy usually gets the girl and everyone else gets what they deserve. What's not to like?,” the Indiana Township resident says.
All of this explains why the O'Hara theater company has chosen another Ludwig farce, “The Fox on the Fairway,” billed as “an uproariously funny comedy about love and golf,” to end its season on an upbeat note.
It will be staged at 8 p.m. May 2 to 4 and May 9 to 11 at Boyd Community Center, O'Hara.
“While it takes place at a golf club, it deals with greater themes such as love, romance and believing in yourself. It's a sheer joy to watch,” says director Teresa Trich of White Oak, who also is director of operations at Quantum Theatre, Pittsburgh.
Although the play is set in present day, the play has been described as Ludwig's tribute to the great English farces of the 1930s and '40s.
“Ken Ludwig's goal is to make this play as relatable to each audience that sees it as possible,” Trich says. “After reading the script, it was very clear that the story could be set in our own backyard. It seemed natural to play upon our rich ties to golf here in the Fox Chapel area.”
Ivins, the producer, contacted Ludwig's representatives to ask permission to change the names of the two rival golf clubs in the script from the Quail Valley Country Club and Crouching Squirrel to the very real Pittsburgh Field Club and Fox Chapel Golf Club.
“They are practically across the street from one another,” Ivins says.
Ludwig approved the request if the two local golf clubs would give written permission, which they did. “In no way do the characters of this play represent real people from either club, nor is the story line based on actual events,” Ivins says. “We just thought it would be fun to localize the setting of this farce by using real places, right down the road from our performance space in O'Hara.”
In this story, the Pittsburgh Field Club and Fox Chapel Golf Club battle for bragging rights, and money, as Henry Bingham, director of the Field Club, discovers that the talented golfer he thought would play for his club has switched sides, having been recruited by his counterpart and opponent, the cocky and arrogant Dickie. The huge bet Bingham had foolishly wagered is now likely to be lost.
Mayhem ensues as Justin, the newly hired hand at the Field Club, who is in love with Louise, the waitress at the club, gets into an argument with her, which jeopardizes plans to win the tournament.
Anyone who enjoys a “good throwback farce” will have fun, says Cami Needle of Squirrel Hill, who plays the “ditzy” Louise. “I'm channeling Karen from ‘Mean Girls,'” she says of her preparations.
Jared LoAlbo says he's been watching Three Stooges shorts and clips from “The Honeymooners” in preparation for his role as Justin Hicks. “Playing him is a ton of fun. He is a bit of a screw up, an excellent golfer and very lucky,” he says.
The Verona resident, who is founder of Food for Groundlings, a Shakespeare theater troupe, says he has never taken on a role like this. He calls Justin “a cartoonlike character.”
Renee Ruzzi-Kern of South Fayette Township, portraying diva Pamela Peabody, says she is a huge fan of Ludwig, having performed in two of his other plays, “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” two of her favorite roles. “I love the craziness and unknown factors in farces,” she says. “The challenge is the timing issues, which have to be perfect to deliver a quality show. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Teresa, our director, and a very talented cast.”
Bill Crean (Henry Bingham) of Pittsburgh, making his Stage Right debut, adds praise for the stage crew “for a fantastic job of creating our own little Field Club.”
“It's very hard to stage such a big world in our space,” Trich says.
Crean says anyone who has experienced a friendly rivalry in any sport will enjoy “The Fox on the Fairway.” “Some teams and players find a way to win; some, let's say, bend the rules a little,” he says.
His rival is Dickie Bell (Joe Eberle of Ross), director of the competing club.
“Bill has been a great scene partner. It's hard keeping a straight face in our scenes because we're so nasty to each other while trying to give the appearance of being nice,” says Eberle, a Stage Right veteran.
Eberle says he is not a golfer in real life. “I used to play, and I got worse every time, so I stopped,” he says. The actor, who also is a professional comedian in real life, adds, “I shot a 74 once, but I cut it down to 68 for the second hole.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for T rib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.