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The Fox on the Fairway

Director Sunny Disney Fitchett ruthlessly observes comedy rule No. 1: pace.

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If you're going out to Little Lake Theatre to see the Pittsburgh premiere of Ken Ludwig's The Fox on the Fairway, I would advise you to skip the playwright's note in the program.

Up until I read it, I was having an enjoyable evening. Ludwig sets his 2010 play at a country club holding its annual grudge-match golf tourney with a neighboring club. The manager is the bombastic Henry Bingham, who's made a sizable bet with rival manager Dickie Bell. In a the way of farce, the stakes get upped, complications ensue, young love is thwarted, old loves revealed, etc.

It's nothing you haven't seen before in other plays or, especially, sitcoms. The plotting's uninspired and the jokes only OK. But it's a fun night because of the tremendous energy in this Little Lake production.

Director Sunny Disney Fitchett ruthlessly observes comedy rule No. 1: pace. The production flies from beginning to end, breathing life and vigor into the script. And she's convinced a terrific cast to hop onto this flying carpet with her. Art DeConciliis and Helga Terre milk every laugh — and then some — with impeccable timing and full-throated commitment. Nathan Bell and Celina Mauti, as the young lovers, couldn't be more adorable if they were made out of brightly colored felt. And Tom Smithyman and Jennifer Kopach play the belligerent obstacles with unabashed glee.

But when a cast is more electric than the material, sometimes they try ramping it up to hide the loss ... which only makes the hollowness more obvious and the effort more labored.

"But no problem," I thought to myself. "I'll spend these parts reading this little Ludwig essay on farce in the program." Big mistake. Ludwig goes on at some length about the brilliance of Fox on the Fairway and its antecedents in theatrical comedy, even going back to Plautus in 3 B.C. Meanwhile, the Fox on the Fairway playing out in front of me goes back to an episode of The Love Boat. Ludwig should just shut up and let the actors do the talking. They're much better at it.

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