Set in a rural Georgia fishing lodge, the story revolves around the visit of two guests, Englishmen Charlie Baker (Andrew Sellon) and Staff Sergeant "Froggy" LeSueur (Michael Edwards). The mild-mannered and painfully shy Charlie is depressed because his beloved (if unfaithful and distant) wife may be dying. Though he'd prefer to stay by her side, she has sent him away. In his misery he tells Froggy, "Please. Try to understand. I can'ttalk to anyone now." So Froggy tells the lodge owner Betty Meeks (Brooks Anne Hayes) that Charlie is the native of an exotic country who does not understand a word of English.
Once Froggy leaves, Charlie soon finds himself privy to all sorts of secrets and private conversations. There is the spoiled heiress Catherine Simms (Maddie Jo Landers) who discovers she is pregnant by her fiancÚ the Reverend David Marshall Lee (Carrington Vilmont). It seems the Reverend is more a man of opportunity than of God, as he plots to take the lodge away from Betty and use Catherine's money to convert the lodge into a center for the Ku Klux Klan. He even goes so far as to continually set up Catherine's "slow" brother Ellard (Matthew Minor) to appear mentally incompetent so he can get his hands on Ellard's money as well. Charlie must find a way to rectify the situation without tipping his hand by revealing he indeed speaks English. Over the few days he seems to emerge from his shell by rising to the challenge, and in the process finds the sense of self he always felt he lacked.
The Maltz as usual has supplied a wonderful set for this production. Though the actual playing space is relatively simple, scenic design by Rob Odorisio gives us a good look at the lodge as a whole. He really has gone the extra mile in making the most of the stage. Perhaps an extra mile could have been taken with the accent work in this production. Though set in Georgia, the actors' accents are a bit all over the map of the South. Landers mixes Texan with Georgian, Minor mixes Eastern Kentucky with Georgian, Hayes is mostly West Virginian, even Edwards as Froggy mixes Australian with his English accent.
Michael Edwards is somehow charming and mysterious as Froggy. One wishes the character had more stage time. Maddie Jo Landers softens a bit too abruptly from the previously prickly Catherine to make the change logical or believable. We still don't completely trust her to not once again become bitchy at the end of the show. Carrington Vilmont is perfect as the priggish Reverend revealed to be a villain worthy of a Scooby Doo cartoon. David Sitler is menacing as the rebellious redneck Owen Musser. Brooks Anne Hayes has some very funny moments as Betty Meeks. She needs to temper her intonation a bit, however, as her voice gets irritating as the show goes on. Matthew Minor as Ellard has some nice moments with Sellon as Charlie, and their dinner table pantomime scene is the highlight of the evening.
Andrew Sellon is deservedly the star of this show. He is understatedly long suffering without being a victima nerd we want to affirm. He represents that bit of the every-man in all of us. Sellon's accent work (when he is speaking English rather than a fantasy language) is the most consistent in the cast. His physical comedy is intelligent rather than broadnot the hammy antics of "SNL." His nerdiness is just right as he is likeable rather than pitiable, and his transformation is not so great as to be implausible. His success is in his subtlety.
By nature The Foreigner is not the lavish, splashy show that Maltz audiences may be accustomed to as a season opener. Though it is a solid, staple piece, it may have been better placed midway in the season. Yes, it is good theatre. Just not as exciting as audiences may have hoped.
The other works of playwright and actor Larry Shue include The Nerd, Grandma Duck is Dead, My Emperor's New Clothes, and Wenceslas Square. Shue was killed in a plane crash in 1985 at the age of 39.
The Foreigner will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida, through November 9, 2014. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre has become one of Florida's preeminent professional theatres, committed to production and education through its collaborations with local and national artists. Currently the state's largest award-winning regional theatre, the Theatre draws nearly 100,000 people annually, serves a subscription base of more than 7,611 and has world-class classroom facilities in support of its Paul and Sandra Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts, which serves hundreds of youth and adults. The Theatre has earned numerous Carbonell Awards, South Florida's highest honor for artistic excellence, as well as the prestigious Bill Von Maurer Award for Theatrical Excellence.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
^Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.