by Clark Groome
Two comedies of very different quality made up my week at the theatre. Here are my reactions to the shows at Act II and People’s Light:
“Fox on the Fairway”
Two competing high-toned country clubs, Crouching Squirrel and Quail Valley, are playing their annual golf tournament. The competition and relationships between and among the two clubs and several members thereof form the core of Ken Ludwig’s “The Fox on the Fairway,” one of the stupidest, most predictable plays I’ve ever encountered.
“Fox,” which is on view at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse through Nov. 22, is a sophomoric effort that relies on some typically farcical components (there are several doors, for instance), some not-so-funny dialogue and a frenetic pace to rev up the audience. It doesn’t work.
Admittedly I’m not a great fan of farce, although Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” is an excellent example of the genre. The problem here is that “The Fox on the Fairway” isn’t really a farce. In truth (I’m gonna regret writing this later, but here goes), it’s neither farce but foul.
As weak as the play is, the Act II production benefits from some really good artists. Director William Roudebush, while overly energetic at times, does as much as he can with the material at hand. His designers — Dirk Durossette (set), Jillian Keys (costumes), James Leitner (lighting), John Stovicek (sound) — all do good work.
The six-person cast features really strong performances from Gerre Garrett and Karen Peakes. Less effective were Will Dennis, Naomi Weiss, Peter Bisgaier and Joe Guzman, each of whom had some good moments but were far too often overacting. That may have been in service to the idea that if the audience laughs at the physical nonsense they exhibit, then it might just forget how shallow the material is. Alas, it doesn’t work and we’re left with a bad play being given an enthusiastic but futile production.
For tickets, call 215-654-0200 or visit www.act2.org.
“Auctioning the Ainsleys”
Annalee (Tri Lamm), Amelia (Juliana Zinkel) and Aiden Ainsley (Jesse Pennington) live in the house in which they grew up. Their father, who ran an auction house from that home, is dead.
Their mother, Alice (the indispensible Carla Belver), also lives in the house, although she lives on an upper floor and hasn’t seen her children in 15 years. The only Ainsley to escape the Midwest home is oldest daughter Avery (Mary Elizabeth Scallen), who returns when her mother gives her the house.
Note that all of the Ainsleys’ first names begin with an “A,” one of the many quirky elements in Laura Schellhardt’s odd and moving comedy “Auctioning the Ainsleys,” which is receiving a terrific production at People’s Light and Theatre Company through Nov. 8.
The nature of the family and its individual members is gradually revealed as matriarch Alice has her recently acquired assistant Arthur (Brian Lee Huynh) record her life’s story, represented by the extraordinary amount of stuff she has accumulated over the years. As we get to know the inner workings of the Ainsleys, they become unexpectedly appealing and human.
Director Abigail Adams and her remarkable design team — Dennis Parichy (the intricate lighting), Luke Hegel-Cantarella (the impressively cluttered set), Karin Graybash (the subtle sound design) and Anne Kennedy (the spot-on costumes) — have mounted a production that will leave you both puzzled and delighted. It’s a surprisingly satisfying production of a very interesting, oddly funny and very strange play.
For tickets, call 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.