Judging by the constant guffaws Thursday at Ken Ludwigs Fox on the Fairway, Hot Summer Nights has a hit. This naughty-but-nice farce is not even second drawer, but the talented cast and experienced director give the illusion that its up to par.
The setup is a golf tournament wager between harried country club president Henry and Dickie, his cocky equivalent at a rival club. After Dickie lures away Henrys star golfer, Henry suddenly learns his new employee Justin is an expert golfer.
But Justin is easily distracted by any worrisome event, which occurs when his fiancé, the club waitress Louise, accidently loses her engagement ring. Henrys life is further complicated by his budding attraction to club vice-president, the sex-starved Pamela, and by his battle-ax wife discovering the pairs liaison.
Fox is a long way from Ludwigs 1989 hit, Lend Me A Tenor, his witty mix-up of identities and mates. For this 2010 comedy of errors, Ludwig relies too heavily on sitcom-like circumstances and tired punch lines. There are some genuinely funny scenes of piled-up misunderstandings but most of the script goes for easy laughs and silly situations.
Credit director Michael Marotta for treating the piece as top material, keeping the pace tight and the energy high. He sometimes pushes his cast to overkill, but the actors work well together and fully commit to everything he asks of them.
John Allores Henry is a bundle of frustrations unraveling over two acts, his lanky frame flailing hilariously as he becomes inebriated over his troubles. Lynda Clark makes the best of the underwritten Pamela, gamely investing the multiple pratfalls and predatory moves with her estimable skills.
Robbie Gay is sweetly charming as jittery, naïve Justin, his rubbery body capable of a hundred expressive positions. Kaila Merrill turns the dim-witted Louise into a loveable character, going beyond cliché into believable emotions.
John Heinis plays Dickie in broad strokes but with such bravura that he carries the audience along through every groan-making malapropism. Pauline Cobrda expertly lobs her zingers as Henrys wife, a Sherman tank in a pantsuit.
Although the piece has elements of a sex farce, theres not really much to offend, save for some outbursts of strong language. The show is slow to catch fire but finally wins over the audience through unstinting determination to entertain.