When Spike Lee was casting the pivotal character for his celebrated 1998 basketball movie, “He Got Game,” the director was looking for someone who could look and play like the nation’s top high school ballplayer.
“There’s no actor that’s going to be able to pull that off,” he told a radio interviewer years ago, explaining why he chose then-NBA rising star Ray Allen for his debut role as Jesus Shuttlesworth.
Luckily for Sacramento theater goers, director Dave Pierini had no such constraints when he cast amateur, hack golfers to star in B Street Theatre’s hilarious and poignant new production, “The Ladies Foursome.” Pierini focused instead on casting four talented actors to perform playwright Norm Foster’s own comic version of a good walk spoiled.
Pierini, coming off a strong directorial effort in B Street’s most recent production, “Airness” – an homage to “air guitar” competitors and the search for contentment – continues his winning streak with “Foursome.” The storytelling vehicle may have switched from pantomiming guitar to playing golf, but Pierini and his new cast still share the same impressive sense of comic artistry and, when the script demands, sentimentality.
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The current production actually represents B Street’s second round with “The Ladies Foursome.” B Street first produced the show in 2014, and it was so successful that the original run was extended three times. Pierini directed that 2014 production, too, and that cast included Amy Kelly and Tara Sissom, two veteran company members who also appear in the current production.
This story introduces us to three women – Margot (Kelly), Tate (Sissom) and Connie (Rebecca Dines) – who gather for a round of golf the day after their friend Catherine’s funeral, to honor the woman who had been their fourth through 14 years of regular golf outings. Another woman, Dory (Tate Hanyok) fills in for Catherine on this memorial round. Dory is also an old friend of Catherine’s whom the other women had never met.
Throughout the course of 18 holes, the four women open up to each other, revealing secrets and making confessions on everything from life, love and sex to their children, careers and ambitions – and, of course, golf. As the play progresses, it becomes increasingly clear to Margo, Tate and Connie that they did not know Catherine nearly as well as they had thought – despite the hours spent together on the golf course over so many years.
The chemistry among actors Kelly, Sissom and Dines is palpable in their portrayal of the three longtime friends who will say most anything to each other. And Hanyok masters the role of the slowly blossoming outsider Dory, timid at first but eventually as honest, funny and fearless as the others. The witty, biting repartee among the ladies begins almost immediately, setting the tone for 18 rounds of non-stop put downs, hurt feelings, revelations and reconciliations.
When Tate confides to Margo that she has “squandered my life. It’s been a life misspent,” Margo tries to comforts her: “You’ve made a wonderful life for yourself. You’ve got a good man. Two beautiful children.”
Tate: “I have three children!” Margo: “I said beautiful.”
Later, when the threesome meet their new fourth, Dory, the conversation turns to the size of her family:
Connie: “Six kids? Wow! Catholic?”
At another point, Margo confides that she has hated the game of golf from that day 14 years ago when she first played with her pals: “I still hate it. But where else can you drink this early in the morning and people think it’s normal?”
Pierini and B Street’s technical production team have collaborated to create a sense of movement for these women as they play 18 different holes of golf on one stage over the course of 2½ hours. To help establish that flowing environment of tee boxes, fairways and greens, scenic designer Samantha Reno created 18 unique and stunning watercolor paintings – one for each scene/hole. The paintings were then converted into projection backdrops that artfully complement Reno’s physical golf course scenery.
In addition, when the actors moved on from one hole to another, they would walk off the stage, and the water color projections would disappear to reveal a white screen. Assisted by Dylan Ballestero’s creative lighting design, the actors would then walk behind the length of the screen in silhouette and remain in character – dancing, teasing each other, fighting one another – in effect creating a seamless feeling of motion and action.
B Street’s engaging presentation of Foster’s sizzling script is another reminder that the true magic and value of any expedition or trek, on or off the golf course, is in the journey itself and not the destination.
The Ladies Foursome
☆☆☆½ (Three and a half stars)
What: A return engagement comedy about three women playing a round of golf in honor of a recently departed friend who was their fourth. Another woman joins them for 18 holes of golf, secrets and confessions. B Street Theatre produced the American premiere in 2014. Presented by B Street. Written by Norm Foster. Directed by Dave Pierini.
Where: Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, 2700 Capitol Ave., Sacramento
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays. Through July 22.
Added performances: 5 p.m. July 20, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. July 27, 5 p.m. July 28.
Cost: $36-$46, discounts available for students and seniors
Information: 916-443-5300 or www.bstreettheatre.org
Running time: About 150 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission