Home Entertainment Laughing through 18 holes: Mesa Encore Theatre presents ‘The Fox on the...

Laughing through 18 holes: Mesa Encore Theatre presents ‘The Fox on the Fairway’

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From left: Toni Jourdan, Stephani McDonald, Darryl Poenisch, Portia Beacham, Zac Bushman, Dan Ashlock star in “The Fox on the Fairway,” presented by Mesa Encore Theatre at Mesa Arts Center. (David Chorley/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

Do you have the green? Money isn’t the only coveted thing in this farce comedy play—for character Justin Hicks, he’ll need some luck when he hits the green while trying to win a golf tournament with a lot at stake. Laughter is sure to ensue as Mesa Encore Theatre presents the farce comedy, “The Fox on the Fairway” at Mesa Arts Center.

“The Fox on the Fairway” tells the story of Justin Hicks, who gets a job working at a golf and country club and proposes to his girlfriend, Louise, who says yes (no spoiler alert: happens in the beginning of the show), both of which Justin is excited about.

“He’s like the human version of a puppy dog,” said actor Zac Bushman, who plays Justin. “He’s very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and he’s excited to be there but is also very easily distracted.”

After Justin starts working at the golf and country club, Bushman said it comes to light that he is a great golfer, so he is given the task by the country club owner (the intimidating Mr. Bingham) to win an inter-club tournament that Bingham has put a lot of money on and hilarity ensues as he tries to win the tournament.

Justin is more of a shy character, which Bushman says he doesn’t normally portray, but Justin’s characteristics have been interesting for him to tackle.

“He holds back a lot of his emotions because he’s scared…he’s very timid and laidback and that was a difficult thing for me to get ahold of because I don’t typically play roles that are shy. “

Shyness aside, Bushman said he relates to Justin’s desire to make everyone around him happy.

“That’s something I definitely am able to relate to…I think it’s important to do, on a personal note, at least try to make people happy and do (not only) what’s in your own best interest but also in the best interest of those around you.”

Bushman is accompanied by five cast members in “The Fox on the Fairway”; which has allowed them to express themselves and adjust the script more freely. Part of this ability is credit to director David Chorley.

“David, first of all, is just a comedic genius,” Bushman said. “I love how open he is to other suggestions, he has a lot of ideas like, ‘It says this in the script, but we can try it like this and make it really funny,’ and it has us rolling on the floor every time.”

“The Fox on the Fairway” is different from other shows because it is a black box show—the theater usually holds less than 100 people, for a more intimate performance where the audience members in the front row are just feet away from the actors. The set is static, with all the scenes taking place in the same room except for one scene where a set piece is changed.

“It’s very believable, which I appreciate in a set…the costume design is also really neat, with golf having its ridiculous outfits as they do. It’s a lot of fun to wear bright blue shorts and a yellow and green shirt and look like a Christmas ornament,” Bushman said of the eccentric costumes associated with golf.

An advantage of a black box show is it allows the audience can feel more a part of the production and be close to the actors—unlike some larger venues. Bushman said he thinks black box shows are fun to attend as an audience member because the actors interact with the audience occasionally.

Chorley took the venue and theater specifics into consideration when working with the actors and adjusted the script—he said at the end of the show, they even thank the audience for coming.

“Overall…they are the best cast in terms of attitude and spirit and going with the flow and being able to take something that is written on a script and make it even funnier than it is supposed to be,” Chorley said of the cast. “That’s probably the best type of situation I can find myself in as a director, to say, ‘We’re going to make these people laugh and that’s our job.’”

Chorley said while working with farce comedy, they put an over the top spin on every situation the play presents.

“That aspect of this production I think is the most fun, I would say…the script goes from one zany situation straight to the next with the snap of a finger, some are far-fetched and some are practical.”

The script, while funny on its own, has transformed since Chorley and the actors have adjusted it. Chorley said a challenging aspect when working on a comedy, is that the actors and director will assume things are funny, but until the script is performed in front of an audience, you have no idea how they will react.

“I am most excited to have an audience,” Bushman said. “This show, if we were doing it as written in the script, it would be hysterical. But because we’ve added so many little bits and jokes, the laughter that we’re going to get is going to amplify the energy of the show so much. I’m so excited to share that laughter not only with the audience, but with my fellow cast members, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Chorley echoed Bushman’s thoughts in that the comedy in the show will keep the audience laughing; Chorley said “The Fox on the Fairway” is escapism at its finest.

“The first two minutes of the show is all jokes. From the very first lights up cue, it is designed to take you away from reality and let you sit back and laugh and laugh and laugh. It sort of reminds me of a two-hour “I Love Lucy” special…it’s non-stop sitcom humor. I think it does a good job of not pretending to be anything else.”

Performances of “The Fox on the Fairway” at Farnsworth Studio at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St., are various times, Thursday through Sunday until Jan. 22. Tickets are $31 for students with ID, $28 for seniors. To learn more about “The Fox on the Fairway” or to purchase tickets, visit MesaArtsCenter.com.

– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.

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