Two-time Tony Award winning stage and screen actress Judith Ivey is no stranger to the female comedy genre, having starred as B.J. Poteet in the final season of the CBS sitcom juggernaut, “Designing Women.” The stage and screen star is now tackling this witty genre at the Public Theatre, directing the Maine premiere of Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s “The Ladies Foursome.”

The sassy play stars Janet Mitchko (Margot), Tarah Flanagan (Tate) and Brigitte Viellieu-Davis (Connie) as three longtime friends mourning the loss of their fourth golfing buddy, Catherine, who was struck by lightening while riding a Ferris wheel. In her honor, they gather for a game of golf the day after the funeral, joined by Catherine’s friend Dory, played by Caralyn Kozlowski.

When Dory suggests they place a wager on the game, the friendly memorial quickly turns into a competitive tit-for-tat, with witty repartee and well-aimed zingers flying through the air with the unseen golf balls. Sex, love, men, motherhood and careers are all fair game as the foursome play the 18-hole course, unearthing secrets and strengthening bonds along the way.

Foster has created four very different women to fuel the comedy – a beer-guzzling construction company owner, a stay-at-home surgeon’s wife, a promiscuous anchor woman and an innkeeper who gave up her Vegas singing career to live in the wilds of Canada with her husband and six children. Their varied backgrounds fuel the comedy, offering plenty of comedic fodder to keep the laughs rolling.

The Public Theatre’s cast delivers a hilarious and heartwarming take on the foursome. Mitchko drives home Foster’s dry wit with her deadpan delivery, which is complimented by Viellieu-Davis’ brash portrayal of Connie. The petite Flanagan is a powerhouse as the clueless Tate and has excellent comedic timing.

Kozlowski’s character, Dory, serves as a metaphorical water hazard. She’s an unknown aspect that is much deeper than first appears and has a knack for adding strokes to the three women’s long-time par-for-the-course friendship.

Laughter filled the air Friday as Kozlowski’s still-water character exterior bubbled over with frustration, unleashing an epic rant about the realty of her seemingly idyllic life.

Set designer Kit Mayer and lighting designer Bart Garvey have crafted an eye-catching set to backdrop Foster’s entertaining links-based play. Lush green cutout trees and bushes line the sides of the stage, backlit by rolling green hills, rich blue sky and wispy white clouds.

Both the audience and theater’s staff were surprised opening night when what appeared to be lighting flashed across the tranquil blue sky, plunging the stage into darkness. It turned out to be a temporary set malfunction, but the audience got a good chuckle out of the unintentional homage to the cause of Catherine’s untimely death.

“The Ladies Foursome” is a smart, fun-filled look at friendship and the links that tie women together. With the Public Theatre’s strong cast, under the direction of Ivey, delivers a winning combination of sidesplitting laughs and touching moments.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: [email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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