When you have been putting on plays since 1953, you learn a thing or two about what audiences want — and when.
That’s why when director Jason Meenach was asked to help select the final show of the 2016-17 season, he knew one thing: It must be funny.
Meenach says Studio often schedules heavier-hitting or experimental shows earlier in the season, but by the time late spring rolls around, the audience is ready to kick back and laugh.
That’s why he picked Ken Ludwig’s play “Fox on the Fairway” to close out the year.
“I thought something that is an ensemble comedy, something that is light and breezy, with fun characters and quirky situations, would be fun and ideal,” Meenach says.
“I had been doing this big reading of Ken Ludwig plays, and I knew Studio Players had never done ‘Fox on the Fairway,’ but they had great success with ‘Leading Ladies’ and ‘Shakespeare in Hollywood. It seems to have all the essential elements of the type of thing that plays well at Studio this time of year.”
Ludwig is known for his quick-paced, forget-your-woes, over-the-top farces peppered with zany characters and situations in “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.”
Meenach says “Fox on the Fairway” features plenty of Ludwig’s hallmarks: lightning fast language quips and a signature chase scene, with all manner of hijinks on display.
The play focuses on a brewing rivalry between two competing country clubs. The Crouching Squirrel Country Club has won the annual golf tournament for the past five years, but members of the rival Quail Valley Country Club are determined to do whatever it takes to win back the trophy. Throw in some quirky romance, high-stakes betting and a tangle of relationships, and you get an evening of comedic mayhem.
Golf forms the setting of the show, but if you’re not a golfer, don’t worry.
“Golf is the backdrop, but it’s not a play where have to be a golf expert,” Meenach says. “If it were, I wouldn’t be qualified to work on it myself.”
Speaking of qualifications, Meenach knows the Studio Players spring audiences well, having acted in many spring comedies at the theater, including “Out of Order,” “Funny Money,” “Great American Trailer Park Musical,” “Dearly Beloved” and “Christmas Belles.” (OK, that last one was not a spring comedy.)
Meenach says his experience as a comedic actor carries over to his directorial choices.
“If people know much about me as an actor, I hope one of the things people notice is I like big, physical choices,” Meenach says. “Subtlety and nuance are not my forte as an actor.”
Fittingly, Ludwig’s zany plays make big physical demands on performers, which Meenach encourages with his go-big-or-go-home directorial approach.
“We’re just milking moments as much as we can,” Meenach says, “being super physical, making big moments and going for it.”
If you go
“The Fox on the Fairway”
What: Studio Players’ production of Ken Ludwig’s comedy
When: 8 p.m. May 4-6, 12, 13, 19, 20; 2:30 p.m. May 7, 14, 21
Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Court
Tickets: $21 general admission, $11 students