Foxes are on the fairways, and laughs are in the house at Gulfshore

James Judy, Eric Hoffman and Carol Halstead have gotten the news, and for two of them, it's not good in Gulfshore Playhouse's "The Fox on the Fairway." It opens Friday at Gulfshore Playhouse.

Photo by Pete Zepeda

James Judy, Eric Hoffman and Carol Halstead have gotten the news, and for two of them, it's not good in Gulfshore Playhouse's "The Fox on the Fairway." It opens Friday at Gulfshore Playhouse.

If you go

‘The Fox on the Fairway’

What: Gulfshore Playhouse production of Ken Ludwig comedy

Where: Norris Center, 755 Eighth Ave. S., Naples

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 1 (preview); 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays (except 7 p.m. March 7); and 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (except for 2 p.m. March 7) through March 23

Prices: $25 and $15 (student) for preview; otherwise $35 and $40, except for VIP opening night, $50

To buy: 866-811-4111 or at www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org

Could "The Fox on the Fairway' have been written in Naples? Its elements sound oh, so familiar: Competitive golf clubs with a little bloodthirst in tournament gambling. Hired-help romances. Team stars with a temperament.

And at least one monumental blunder. In this case, it's by club president Bingham, who has bet heavily on his Quail Valley Club's victory. He is going through qualified golfers like a mole through the greens, and he can nearly see his home foreclosure papers lying at the 18th hole.

Gulfshore Playhouse opens the Ken Ludwig comedy Friday, although there's a preview tonight, if you're so sure this is your club that you have to see it early. The Ludwig name may sound familiar: Naples Players produced his "Moon Over Buffalo" two seasons ago; the late Naples Dinner Theatre had a successful run of his "Lend Me a Tenor."

Matt Lenz, who knows comedy — he was associatedirector for the original Broadway "Hair Spray" — is directing, and apparently having as much fun as the characters.

"Like every good farce, it's all about crisis and jeopardy. And it's like a snowball rolling down a hill. It just picks up everything as it goes along," he said gleefully on a rehearsal break this week.

Lenz says this play isn't unlike a musical — "There's a certain kind of choreography and precision to the movement" — and that Ludwig's calling card is a "style and energy" that keeps the story in high gear.

Lenz particularly likes that "The Fox on the Fairway" is playing in Naples, because of the immense real estate and time devoted to golf down here.

"I said to Kristen (Coury, Gulfshore Playhouse artistic director) — when she first talked to me about coming down to do it, I said 'Good for you. It's just about a perfect fit for your audience.' "

Director Matt Lenz gives James Judy and Carol Halstead during tech rehearsals for 'Fox on the Fairway.'

Photo by Pete Zepeda

Director Matt Lenz gives James Judy and Carol Halstead during tech rehearsals for "Fox on the Fairway."

Some theatergoers may reel from déjà vu when they see Florida colors in the stage set — in fact, set and lighting designer Dennis Moyes, in an essay on his work for it jokes that he "nearly ran screaming from the room" when he got his marching orders. The audience will hear Claude Bolling trios and duets twittering out familiar sonic wallpaper for a club lobby.

Lenz wanted to make the play personal for the actors, as well as the audience. The playwright's instructions offer what Lenz calls "room to riff."

"We've done that in terms of some moments or things actors have found that come out of the creation process. We allow the actors to invest a bit of their own personality," he said.

Lenz may be back to Florida yet this year. He leaves from here to become a director for the touring production of "Catch Me if You Can," which is a viable candidate for Philharmonic Center and Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall seasons.

But Lenz has his fingers crossed that he may have to stay in New York. He's working with a script titled "Empire," about the creation of New York's most fabled skyscraper. Its producers are looking for the right theater now.

"It's terrific. It's a great script," he said, predicting, "If it's not on Broadway next year, it will be the year after that."

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