Play hits the rough on back nine

The Ladies Foursome golfing comedy made its Western Canadian premiere at Lacombe’s Cow Patti dinner theatre this week with a solid — and riotously entertaining — front nine holes.

The Ladies Foursome golfing comedy made its Western Canadian premiere at Lacombe’s Cow Patti dinner theatre this week with a solid — and riotously entertaining — front nine holes.

But the Norm Foster play, running at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club, faded during the back nine when the script became bogged down by maudlin moments in the second act that just didn’t ring true.

Since Foster is the Canadian purveyor of lightweight comedy scripts that fuel dinner theatres across the nation, and he also wrote the highly successful precursor comedy The Foursome, about male golfing buddies, one can assume he had a harder time writing about women.

Let’s face it, we are the more complicated sex.

Certainly the golfing foursome of the play’s title have surprisingly convoluted lives.

Cow Patti’s impressive cast of professional stage actors (this time brought in from Ontario) play the roles of Margot, Tate, Connie and Dory as four distinct and largely relatable characters.

Each was also imbued with an impeccable sense of comic timing.

The plot revolves around three friends and an acquaintance who are playing 18 holes in memory of their late mutual golfing companion, Katherine. She was recently killed in a freak ferris wheel/lightning-strike accident.

Shoot-from-the-hip Margot (played by Cow Patti founder and Lacombe resident AnnaMarie Lea) is a broad who swills beer for breakfast and runs a construction company started by her father. Career success might have cost workaholic Margot her personal life, but not her wicked sense of humour.

“You have two beautiful children,” she tells her friend before a tee-off — only Tate is an insecure mom of three.

Tate, played by Michelle LeBlanc. goes on to question which of her kids is less than beautiful? Is it Nigel with the lazy eye?

(With that name, a wandering eye is the least of his problems, it’s unhelpfully suggested.)

Their friend Connie, played by Debra Hale, is a flirty TV news anchor with a thing for men — and sex.

Connie knows her good looks are as important to her career as her journalistic skill. She quips, “They don’t put trolls on television — unless they’re male.”

The three golfers, who had played with Katherine for 15 years, are now joined on the course by Dory, a woman they barely know, who was also friendly with the late Katherine.

We learn that Dory (Alison Lawrence) has driven down for “Kathy’s” funeral from a northern fishing resort she helps her husband run on remote Arrowhead Lake.

The mother of six, who attributes her fertility to being “careless” rather than Catholic, acts as a catalyst to move the plot along.

Dory not only reveals secrets about Katherine — the mysterious friend everyone thought they knew — but pries personal details from the three survivors.

This premise works terrifically well in the first act, which is set on a spartan stage, decorated with aspen trees. Conversations between the golfers move briskly from one comic zinger to the next, thanks to great pacing, set by director Jesse Collins (nominated for an Emmy Award for the PBS children’s series Zoboomafoo).

Laughs are scarcer to come by in the second act.

This has more to do with Foster’s ham-fisted scripting than any shortcoming in the acting or directing. For some reason, the playwright begins giving the characters long-winded and/or contrived monologues, presumably meant to introduce bittersweet moments.

This doesn’t work — especially when the females begin saying and doing things that women would never do — such as Connie delivering a bizarre lead-the-charge speech at the 18th-hole, accompanied by the other three golfers humming the tune to Battle Hymn of the Republic.

By the time the play’s ending arrives, another musical moment seems forced and so lacks poignancy.

While some people might not connect with Foster’s uneven script about middle-aged female friendships, misgivings and angst, The Ladies Foursome is still fuelled by four talented performances.

The play’s jokes should also appeal — especially to women of a certain age, who will recognize some truths in the humourous barbs about sex, religion, kids and careers — because they hit close to home.

The dinner theatre comedy continues to March 29.