A farce is a funny thing. With all the door-slamming, mistaken identities and running around, it should work on all ages, in all languages and under any dramaturgical distress. Bad plays are saved by pratfalls all the time.
But sometimes even a solid fall - arguably the funniest physical thing an actor, or fumbling friend, can do - isn't funny enough.
Enter "The Fox on the Fairway," Ken Ludwig's umpteenth comedy about society, class and morals, to depend on such precise, comic intelligence. Its golf-course setting may be the epicenter of American-classism dialogue, but it's not about anything in particular, except for how ironic "well-dressed" rich people are when their childish manners are put on display.
In Kaleidoscope Theatre's production, we're taken to Quail Valley, a typical American country club: a lot of arrogance for such little distinction. The dilemma, in typical farce fashion, is ridiculously resolvable, and could be if it weren't for the nincompoops who run the place. A fine place to tee off.
Kaleidoscope's cast has some great players, like Geoff Pictor as the young, impressionable club employee Justin, and Lona Geiser as the cougar-esque board member Pamela. Pictor and Geiser latch onto the zaniness that's required in these kinds of characters, and don't tone it down for even a second. They get that farce is a sprint.
Pictor is especially adept at playing this role, with his aww-shucks charm and boyish naiveté. You want him to keep failing just so you can watch him dig himself out. Geiser brings the best comedic timing in the cast, which helps to elevate the inane things she has to say.
Thomas LaChiusa is Bingham, the guy tasked with saving the club from financial ruin, and saving his marriage from unfortunate destiny. You get the impression Bingham wants neither of those things, so why fight so hard?
LaChiusa is well versed in all the gestures of this kind of role - equal parts jerk and hero - but fails to choose a balance between all of his options. Is he the affable wise-guy Bill Murray, or the annoying chump Bill Murray? (Murray is an obvious comparison here, considering the understandable but unnecessary references to "Caddyshack" director Keith A. Wharton makes.) It would help to pinpoint where LaChiusa wants to take Bingham, and turn up the volume once there.
Similarly, Kelsey George Mogenson, as Justin's love interest Louise, is unsure of where to play her part. Mogenson gives us shades of the intelligence-challenged blonde cliché, but also plays the voice of reason with convincing flair. Chances are, Louise is not the sharpest club in the bag but winds up making simple sense of things. Mogenson falls short of finding that fun balance, hard as she might try.
Monish Bhattacharyya, as Dickie, the aptly named opponent from the opposing country club, is lacking in all the slimy, grimy, slickness that this weasel should be. (As long as we're making "Caddyshack" comparisons, he's the Ted Baxter-like jerk played by Ted Knight.) Bhattacharyya doesn't command the clubhouse (or auditorium) the way a rogue enemy would. He deflates what could be fun word play between Dickie and Bingham.
Shayna Raichilson-Zadock is Bingham's wife, shop owner Muriel, a role designed for the bawdy Bette Midler type (Mary Testa played the part at the George Street Playhouse). She does a fine job, though she could also play it up more. Her newspaper whacks at doofus Bingham's head are loud and funny.
If only Wharton was able to give the rest of this production the whack in the behind that it desperately needs.
Two stars (Out of four)
What: "Fox on the Fairway"
Where: Kaleidoscope Theatre? Productions at Medaille College Buffalo Campus, 18 Agassiz Circle
When: Through Sept. 29