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LIGHTNING REVIEW: Strong cast tees up 'Fairway' hilarity

Scott Treadway and Marcy McGuigan resort to drinking when everything falls apart. Scott Treadway and Marcy McGuigan resort to drinking when everything falls apart.

Sometimes in the past the Flat Rock Playhouse has staged comedies where the show was fine despite a weak role or two.

"The Fox on the Fairway," which opened Wednesday on the mainstage of the Flat Rock Playhouse, is not one of these. It's better than fine. It's outstanding. I can't remember a stronger cast, one in which any single performance is superb and all are memorable for one or two — in some cases five or six — scenes that are just totally over the top.
"Fairway" is implausible and outrageous. It has more twists than a crate of pretzels. It has physical comedy that's as good as any staged here over the past several years. And no dry spells. It'll keep you laughing.
Unlike some of the lesser known comedies the Playhouse has put on in the past to fill the gaps between the big summer musicals, "Fairway" allows the six cast members to fully exhibit their comic chops unburdened by a lamely written script. Ken Ludwig's script is fast-paced, witty and fat-free.
ScottTreadwayScott TreadwayThe story opens with Mr. Bingham, played by Scott Treadway, having hatched what he believes is the perfect plot to unseat the Crouching Squirrel Country Club in the annual inter-club golf tournament. Bingham's Quail Valley is on a five-year losing streak to its hated rival.
Dickie, played with to malevolent hilarity by Michael Kostroff, is even greedier and more ruthless than Bingham, as we find out after the two make a $200,000 bet that Bingham is sure he'll win. He has recruited an ace golfer who surely will return the cup to Quail Valley.
In the first of countless reversals of fortune, Dickie has stolen the same ace golfer, by hiring him at his company. It spells disaster for Bingham, especially given that he has also agreed to throw in his wife's beloved antique shop, the Old Crock, as part of the bet.
In the meantime, we get to watch the turbulent fortunes of the young lovers alternately racing toward a wedding, the bedroom or violent hostilities. Played by Alex Hanna, a recent Julliard drama school graduate, Justin is rubber-faced and elastic armed as a goofy young man who becomes Bingham's assistant and, for a while anyway, the hero who can save the day.
Jessica DiGiovanni is terrific as Louise, Justin's fiancée and taproom server. A willowy beauty who lights up the stage, she delivers one of several delightful physical comedy bits as she tries to bus tables and clear crumbs while hiding her left hand from Justin. Why I won't say. There are so many setups in the play that it's better just to hang on for the ride. She looks stunning in a red dress.
Denise Nolin, as Bingham's battle-ax wife Muriel, drew big applause each time she took the stage. The audience remembered her comic performance as Effy, the gossipy postmistress in "Spitfire Grill." If anything, Nolin flexes her comic muscle even more broadly in "Fox."
In a very close contest, I nominate Marcy McGuigan's blindness routine as the funniest comic bit. As Pamela, the attractive but aging country club denizen who seeks a bottle first thing in the morning and a bedmate not long after, Ms. McGuigan nails the role throughout.
Observant television viewers will recognize Kostroff, marvelous as Dickie, from his roles ranging from Disney's "Sonny with a Chance" to HBO's "The Wire" (as defense attorney Maury Levy). He's as obnoxious and loud as the hand-knitted sweaters and Day-Glo yellow golf shoes he wears.

It goes without saying, at least from my experience, that Scott Treadway is terrific in the lead. One difference from some comedies in the past is that he does not have to carry anyone. They're all good.
"By the end, as in the high comedies of the 1930s and '40s, it is desperation that fuels the comedy," he says. "And of course it's always when we think we have our lives in good shape and cared for that they start falling apart, which is at the root of the comic impulse."
Nothing is ever settled in "Fairway," not until the very end. You'll lose track if you try to keep up with the number of times where "the worst thing that can happen right now" happens. And yet you won't lose your bearings. The characters clearly paint good guys versus bad guys. The script makes it next to impossible to figure out how a good outcome can happen.
That's why you have to see the show. Even when it's over, you'll be delighted to find one more reason to be glad you went.