It is a curious phenomenon that the plays of Ken Ludwig (“Moon Over Buffalo,” “Lend Me a Tenor”) are consistently admired more by audiences than critics, including this one. So what’s to be said of “Fox on the Fairway,” a sorry collection of ancient golf jokes, cartoonish characters and impossibly contrived mayhem? Just that it would seem to contain the necessary ingredients for yet another Ludwig success.
The setting for this farce, debuting at Arlington’s Signature Theater, is the leafy confines of Quail Valley Country Club on the day of its annual match with the team from Crouching Squirrel. But this is no tender-hearted spoof of golf’s upper crust a la P.G. Wodehouse. It is, sadly, a manic race to the intellectual depths propelled by a nonsensical tale of greed, love and stupidity. Director John Rando shoots for maximum buffoonery here, assisted by an able assemblage of performers clearly eager to unleash their comedic chops. They include Jeff McCarthy and Andrew Long as rival screwballs in charge of the tournament but more consumed with a spirited wager; Aubrey Deeker and Meg Steedle as a pair of impetuous lovebirds who fuel the plot; and Holly Twyford as McCarthy’s amorous and tipsy colleague. For the most part, the requisite exuberance and comedic timing are displayed by all.
Again, the formula employed by Washingtonian Ludwig is to create characters as annoying as possible (most notably here in the case of Steedle’s loony nymph) and sprinkle liberally with cheap gags. Mission accomplished, presumably to the delight of some — but surely not all — devotees of artful comedy.