Golf with Alan Shepard
Golf with Alan Shepard is a chance to spend an evening with a foursome on the back nine. The four elderly golfers are in the twilight of life, a point made bluntly through the play’s constant remarks on aging and the not-so-subtle references to playing the last holes on the course.
Every player in the group has a distinct personality, though all share a certain crusty view of life and impatience with the aches and pains of senioritis. Griff (Michael Beckett) is the World War II vet and resident curmudgeon. Milt (Walt Thompson) is the reluctant player and group newbie, taking the place of his beloved dead brother. Ned (Chris Lamb) is trying to cope with the grief of losing his beloved wife, while ex-priest Larkin (Daryl Petrig) is coping with losing his beloved God.
The Chautauqua Playhouse has assembled an acting foursome able to breathe life into the characters in Golf, which can be a challenge with playwright Carter W. Lewis’ frustrating script. Listening to Lewis’ dialogue is like watching golf. Lewis either sinks the ball with a beautiful shot or carelessly misses the hole with a tired swing. The insights of four old coots puttering about can be quite revealing and touching but also can grow stale when the references are old and the jokes predictable. But following a group of gabby golfers is a clever device, and we do grow to care when these golf buddies slowly reveal their lives, their losses and their loneliness.
The scenes are played out in game fashion with the players gathering at each hole and lining up shots, swinging, putting and scoring. Sometimes we get two players in philosophical discussions, or the whole group trading barbs and insults.
It’s evident the four actors are having fun with this play. They interact seamlessly with each other while giving us insight into their respective characters. The long set of green AstroTurf representing a golf course captures what makes this golf game such a lure for the foursome—time in the sun with pals, a bit of friendly competition and meandering conversations that help pass the time.