Story: Charlie Baker is an invisible sort of guy. He acknowledges that his job as an editor of science-fiction stories may not even be relevant, given the fantastic subject matter with which he works. He’s also rather invisible to his wife, who actually has professed to him her grand total of 23 affairs (and counting). So, the painfully shy Charlie is taken by his friend, Staff Sergeant Froggy LeSueur, to a fishing lodge in rural Georgia, where Froggy introduces Charlie to proprietor Betty Meeks as a man from a foreign country who doesn’t understand English.
Naturally, the local denizens begin to freely speak in front of Charlie, who is left behind for a few days by Froggy. Southern belle Catherine Simms confides in Charlie, who utters only an occasional “T’ank you” to one and all. Catherine is engaged to a rather mysterious preacher named David Lee, who has his eyes on her inheritance and also wants to oust the widow Meeks from her lodge with the assistance of the feeble-minded county property inspector Owen Musser. David wants to prevent Catherine’s supposedly slow-thinking brother Ellard from getting his piece of the family treasure as well. When Charlie overhears David and Owen are plotting to wrest control of the lodge from Betty to use it as a haven for the Ku Klux Klan, he plots to foil them and help his newfound friends.
Highlights: Larry Shue’s two-act comedy is a popular choice for production by both professional and community theaters because of the rich humor in its premise and relatively small cast. The current presentation directed by Judy Yordon at Clayton Community Theater is a generally entertaining and funny interpretation thanks in large part to some inspired performances by its exuberant cast.
Other Info: Yordon’s direction gets off to a creaky start, as the first 30 minutes or so set the plot in motion in pedestrian fashion. Once Charlie’s background is suitably explained and his friend Froggy has left the premises and Charlie to his own devices, though, the laughs start to accumulate.
Jeffrey Dent makes for an amusing and engaging Charlie. He slowly and assuredly develops Charlie’s growing confidence, proving himself adept at some fine physical comedy as well as glib humor based on the premise of the title character ‘acclimating’ himself to this strange little American hamlet and its colorful characters.
Tim Bono corrals the lion’s share of laughs with his endearing portrayal of the kind-hearted Ellard. There’s a fitfully funny scene in which Ellard, wide-eyed in astonishment, delights in Charlie’s mimicking of his every move at the dinner table, as well as when he ‘teaches’ Charlie a broad array of English words in “about an hour,” which he attributes to his own fine teaching ability.
Suzanne Greenwald also is quite funny as the daffy proprietress of the lodge, although her constant shouting at Charlie (‘cuz she thinks that makes it easier for him to understand her) grows wearisome quickly. Fortunately, she tones that down about halfway through the first act and relies instead on her proven talent for comedy. A scene in which she, Bono and Rachel Visocan as Catherine react to a tale told by Charlie in his ‘native language’ is quite funny.
Visocan starts off a bit over-the-top but settles in to a nice portrayal of Catherine, who becomes increasingly suspicious of the man who impregnated her. David Hawley is fine as Charlie’s protective pal, Froggy. Preston Murchison is OK as the scheming preacher and Todd Micali relishes his chance at melodrama as the banal and buffoonish Owen, a stereotypically ignorant and racist Southern bully.
Brad Slavik’s and Yordon’s scenic design is an amusing amalgamation of knickknacks adorning the walls, including a framed collection of Betty’s beloved spoons, and a two-tiered construction that allows for judicious entrances and exits for the performers. Tom Bell’s sound design is too intrusive at the beginning, as the rain cascading down drowns out the actors at first, while Nathan Schroeder’s lighting design supports various scenes. The clever props, including a mounted fish, a deer’s head, a croquet mallet and other assorted flotsam, are furnished by Yordon, Dave Ogden, Rose Wegescheide and Joe Wegescheide, while the costumes are courtesy of Jean Heckmann, Yordon and the cast.
The Foreigner, with its share of amusing characters and comic situations, is a welcome visitor and given an entertaining interpretation in this rendition.
Play: The Foreigner
Group: Clayton Community Theatre
Venue: Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton
Dates: April 27, 28, 29
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb