IF YOU GO
What: Two golf clubs square off as young lovers Justin and Louise get engaged
When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through
Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island
Cost: $25 & $23
Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com
Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall directly across from the Crazy Flamingo restaurant.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
More: Tell 'em you read this on naplesnews.com!
1055 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
That's the sound of comedy roaring down the fairway on Marco Island.
The Marco Players kick off 2014 with delightful, if sometimes inconsistent, take on Ken Ludwig's farce "The Fox on the Fairway." How can you possibly refuse a comedy that holes out with good-luck charm: "I kissed his balls?"
"Fox" might be the lightest, most inconsequential of farces ever written. Two golf clubs square off in their annual grudge match with 200 large riding on the outcome. Serial fashion abuser Dickie Bell promptly steals Quail Valley's best player for Crouching Squirrel. Cue the fireworks, fairways and more bad slices than a cheap pizzeria. Both Gulfshore Playhouse and the Off-Broadway Palm have produced the play.
Director Beverly Dahlstrom and her amateur cast capture something ferocious and fun in the show. Space - the Marco Players perform in a converted storefront at the Marco Town Center Mall - remains the chief issue. Farces demand room on stage for capers, chases and antics; the Marco Players have none.
No matter how good the cast - and they light up the greens - the play's staging sometimes defeats them. The same mistakes often knee-capped November's "Absalom," with too much little-used furniture crowding the small stage. A functional set always trumps a pretty set. Ditch the coffee table and over-stuffed chair; they're just hazards. Likewise, full doors slow down entrances and exits. Use swinging doors; they make farces all the more frantic and funny as actors blow through them at full speed.
Still, "Fox on the Fairway" avoids water hazards, sand traps and tall grass to find laughs. Pick your favorite actor; they're all teeing off for 300-yard drives straight down the fairway.
Massachusetts transplant Alex Costello debuts with the Marco Players as dastardly Dickie Bell. His over-the-top (or, if you prefer, off-the-fairway and into-the-rough) performance gives the show just the hilarious jolt it needs. Costello totes a driver around like a scepter, twirling it, stroking it, rapping doors; his Dickie is quite the royal pain.
Costello bounces off Sean O'Shea's manic golf club manager Henry Bingham as if the two were old-school vaudevillians. O'Shea squawks and screams and flaps his arms. Add Carole Musgrave's vampy club officer Pamela Peabody (Dickie's ex-wife, Henry's paramour) and the sparks fly.
Jesse Heindl, who debuted in "Absalom," sparkles as goofball golfer Justin Hicks, the newest employee of Quail Valley. I love the dazed and confused look he projects, along with the wide-eyed innocence and complete nutty commitment to the role. Look to for Bianca Nova LaRochelle as loopy club cocktail waitress Louise. Louise serves drinks. Louise plays golf. And Louise plays Justin like a par three at Bentley Village. LaRochelle gets laughs doing all three.
Cheryl Johnson delivers one of the night's best surprises as crass, bitter Muriel. Her roar of anger blasts across the stage like a foghorn. The rumbling, hands tango she and Costello share almost shakes the room apart with laughs. I love the way Dahlstrom allows her Muriel to peek through the club doors to spy on goings-on.
Costumer Kay Riegel finds (or creates) some of the ugliest golf sweaters in the free world for Costello's character. Wait - just wait - for the final one, with golf pun "TEES ME" that caused literal groans from an audience of Red Hat ladies. I do wish clothes for LaRochelle and Musgrave aimed a little more upscale, especially the "Hail Mary" dress. It's called that because "you save it for the final pass, and if they pull it off, it's a touchdown."
"Golf is easy. The first thing you do is buy clothes that don't match." Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.