Kevin Armstrong and Karen Sticer McNally rehearse a scene from Theatre Albany's production of Ken Ludwig's play "The Fox on the Fairway."
ALBANY — There’s nothing quite so frustrating as thinking you have a sure thing, only to find out that you’ve been outfoxed.
That’s what Bingham, director of the Quail Valley Country Club, learns this week when Theatre Albany raises the curtain for a two weekend run of “The Fox on the Fairway.”
Bingham, portrayed by Albany assistant public defender Kevin Armstrong, learns the hard way that counting your birdies before they hatch can be a costly mistake. The play, written by Ken Ludwig as a tribute to the marvelous English farces of the 1930s-’40s, is set on a country club where Bingham thinks he has finally found a way to beat his arch nemesis, Dickie Bell (played by veteran Theatre Albany actor Doug Lorber), in their annual tournament.
“I just found a new member who is better than normal,” Armstrong said of his character. “So, relying on him, I make several bets with Doug Lorber’s character. And it turns out Doug actually has that player instead. So everything I was basing my bet off of is in Doug’s corner.”
FOX ON THE FAIRWAY
WHAT: Comedy by Ken Ludwig
WHO: Theatre Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and April 14-16; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and April 14.
WHERE: Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave.
CAST: Kevin Armstrong, Doug Lorber, Jason wallace, Lindsey Giddens Stewart, Karen Spicer McNally and Kathleen Stroup
DIRECTOR: Mark Costello
TICKETS: $20, adults; $15, seniors; $10, students and active military
BOX OFFICE: (229) 439-7141
And from that miscalculation, as they say, comedy ensues.
With spring just getting started, flowers blooming and the Masters looming, “The Fox on the Fairway” brings much of that feeling to the stage. The play is designed to be lighthearted fun.
“I feel very good about it,” Armstrong said in an interview Monday morning. “It’s very enjoyable, very entertaining. I think it’ll be a great show, especially for people who enjoy comedy.”
Director Mark Costello has described the play as a tribute to English farces. Armstrong agrees that it’s a characteristic of the show.
“There are sections of it where people are coming in and out of different doors, all at once or very, very quickly,” he said. “So it does have this farcical aspect to it where you don’t know what’s going to be happening the next moment. People who are on stage go off stage, people who are off stage enter stage and you have to follow along with who’s going where. There are definitely some farcical aspects to it.”
While golf plays a central role in the production, the audience members won’t have to duck when they hear, “Fore!”
“It would be dangerous for the audience if we were to actually hit golf balls,” Armstrong said. “You get to see some golf, but the other golf takes place off stage.”
For Armstrong, this is his sixth performance with Theatre Albany. He said he’s averaged one or two plays a year since he started acting with the local theater in the 2009-10 season.
Asked whether he prefers comedy to dramatic roles, Armstrong said, “I don’t personally have a preference, but other people tend to enjoy me more in comedy, so that is what I’m more drawn towards.
“I was raised doing a lot of comedy doing community theater back home at St. Simons and then at Athens, and so that’s mainly what I focus on.”
Armstrong vividly remembers his first time on stage with community theater, including a brief part of the song that he sang, complete with Cockney accent.
“I was a ram in the streetscape scene from ‘Mary Poppins,’ where they go into the streetscape picture and they sing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’” he said. “I was one of the sheep that sang in a goat voice ... with two other characters in the fourth grade.”
Practicing law and acting on stage might not appear to have any similarities, but the stage experience can be helpful, especially for young lawyers who are having to speak in front of jurors for the first time.
“A lot of people who come out of law school, a lot of my school mates, I guess you’d call them that, were maybe uncomfortable going into court for the first time,” Armstrong said. “But for me, it was much easier going into court because of my background in the theater and having stood up and talked in front of people in the past.
“One thing that’s a little peculiar with my job is I’m not one of the assistants who is constantly doing trials. I focus more on the appeals. I’m not in front of the jury as my co-workers are. I still do trial work, but not as much as my co-workers do because I’m usually reading through transcripts and writing appeals for them.”
Speaking in public was old hat for Armstrong long before he made his first opening argument. He got his first exposure to acting when he was too young even for children’s theater.
“St. Simons has a great community theater called The Island Players,” he said. “For the past 40 years, mainly spearheaded by a woman named Joan Harris, they’ve had an annual summer workshop that is for children ages eight to 18.
“My mother would do the choreography for that, so that would always have me down there even before I was 8 years old, so I saw other people doing it up to that point. When I became old enough, I would do those (workshops) every summer. And they’d have adult shows throughout the year and some of those shows would involve children or teenagers and I would always be involved in those as well.
“This is just something I’ve been doing since the ‘80s,” Armstrong said. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing plays.”
While acting has been in Armstrong’s blood for decades now, he doesn’t necessarily get lost in a character. Asked whether, in the spirit of their respective roles, he and Lorber had a friendly wager on who’ll get the most applause, Armstrong took a much more realistic approach than his character Bingham would have.
“We actually have not done that, no,” he said. “Doug’s been on stage here for 30 years, so he has great old friends. I think that I would probably lose that bet just from that.”
“The Fox on the Fairway” opens at 8 p.m. Friday at Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave. Tickets are $20, adults; $15, seniors; $10, students and active military. Contact the box office at (229) 439-7141.