Village Theatre's The Foreigner Arrives Carrying Laughter
Though I'd not seen it, most theatregoers know The Foreigner from countless productions both professional and amateur over the last 25 years. Sadly, Playwright Shue died in 1986, never having known of the play's timeless appeal. Taking place in a rural fishing lodge in Georgia, The Foreigner tells of a guest to the lodge, shy proofreader and sci-fi buff Charlie, brought there by his pal Froggy, by a British demolitions expert who runs training sessions at a nearby location. While Froggy has to depart for a few days, he falsely informs Betty, the quaint elderly proprietor, that Charlie speaks no English, so he won't be disturbed. She imparts this information to the others at the lodge, including Catherine, an heiress and former debutante saddled with a seemingly shifty fiancÚ, the Reverend David Marshall Lee, and Catherine's dull-witted brother Ellard. The not-so-good Reverend David and his ill-tempered white trash buddy Owen are in cahoots with the local KKK, and David is scheming after Catherine and Ellard's inheritance. Before long, Charlie finds himself privy to assorted secrets and scandals freely discussed in front of him by the other visitors. He allows Ellard to "teach him" to speak English, which gives Ellard self-confidence. He run's afoul of David and Owen and must team up with his friends to keep them and their KKK buddies from seizing the lodge.
The role of Charlie requires a skilled comic actor, and Seattle newcomer Erik Gratton is just that. Gratton is hilarious when Charlie is playing mute and "learning" English, and his acting out a version of what seems to be "Little Red Riding Hood" is a gut-buster. Angela DiMarco is appealingly warm as Catherine, while Anthony Lee Phillips is charming and never condescending as Ellard. Sharva Maynard makes a pitch perfect homespun delight as Betty, Jonathan Crimeni is a suitably sly presence as Reverend David, and Patrick Phillips makes a droll Froggy. Eric Ray Anderson's Owen is a model good-old-boy baddie and the face-off scene when Charlie succeeds in spooking him is the single funniest point in the laugh-laden proceedings.
Matthew Smucker's rustic lodge setting is a model of moody details and splendid eccentricity, beautifully enhanced by Tom Sturge's lighting design, and Melanie Burgess' costumes suit the play's locale perfectly.
Perhaps my lack of familiarity with The Foreigner tipped the scale in favor of my having a good time, but regardless of that fact, what better way take the chill off a cool winter's eve than to warm yourself up with some hearty laughter?
The Foreigner runs through March 2, 2014, at Village Theatre, 303 Front Street North in Issaquah, WA and March 7-30 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Avenue Everett, WA. For tickets and other information go to www.villagetheatre.org.