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Bay Theatre Comapny’s The Foursome

Can Canada’s answer to Neil Simon match the American’s wit?

If you long to crack open a few beers and play verbal tackle, join Paul Edward Hope, Stephen Patrick Martin, James Gallagher and Lee Ordeman in The Foursome. <<Photo by Stan Barouh>>

Snows may soon cover the golf course, but golfers can escape to the links this winter at The Bay Theatre, where Norm Foster’s comedy The Foursome is now playing. If you long to crack open a few beers and play verbal tackle over a friendly wager, then this is the play for you.
    Foster, Canada’s answer to Neil Simon, is the Great White North’s most produced playwright. Despite his immense popularity, I found his humor — save for some zippy one-liners — no match for Simon’s wit.
    The course is a stage for one-upmanship among four old friends at a 20th class reunion. Driven by sexual innuendo, put-downs and mild obscenity, this script celebrates the tired cult of the man-child in 19 vignettes interspersed with madcap music and mime. Marriage, fidelity, alcoholism, religion, business, aging parents and family planning all figure in the mix. But their treatment is Vaudevillian, with suggestive gags and adolescent physical humor.
    The cast is impressive. As characters, I genuinely like or hate them all, as the playwright intended. They have not kept in touch, and it’s hard to believe they were ever close.
    Cam (James Gallagher) is an ad exec, husband to his college sweetheart and understanding father to an effeminate son. He also happens to be a good golfer, but for him this game is secondary to his yearning to recapture the good old days with his three best college buds. A worrywart by nature, Cam can’t help but wonder about the road not taken, epitomized by Rick (Paul Edward Hope), the Miami playboy and braggart.
    For Rick, the match is more about a grudge bet than bonding. Rick revels in his uniformly acknowledged role of jerk. Ted (Lee Ordeman) is an affable alcoholic-in-the-making, a suave one who downplays having a hot young wife. Troubled by a failed first marriage, he aims to succeed this time around with the help of his newfound religion, Buddhism.
    Donnie (Stephen Patrick Martin) is as inept at golf as he is adept at parenting the five children about whom he talks non-stop. By the 12th hole, their enthusiasm wanes to mutual annoyance until the four eventually reveal some unexpected nuggets: Ted is impotent, Rick wants relationship advice, Donnie embraces his square image, and Cam proves he can overcome his earnestness to scam the others.
    Bay Theatre Company’s diminutive space has been reconfigured to an asymmetrical theater-in-the-round with three meandering greens, a device that simulates wide-open spaces to great effect. Another innovation is the inclusion of a silent woman (Alicia Sweeney) who is not written into the script, but whose appearance works well to illustrate the men’s renewed bonding. There’s also a lot of 1980s’ music and one unforgettable costume.
    By the 19th hole, though, I felt the play had gotten trapped in the sands of its own cleverness. It comes within a ball’s width of addressing some great issues like misplaced values and fleeting relationships. But it veers off at the last minute. With revision, Foster could have written an Eagle. The Foursome is just par for the course.

Playing thru Jan. 13, Th-Sa 8pm; Su 2pm at Bay Theatre Company, 275 West St., Annapolis. $35-$45; rsvp: 410-268-1333; www.baytheatre.org.