Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Foreigner"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"The Foreigner"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The third show of URI's season is Larry Shue's delightful farce "The Foreigner". The show takes place in the early 1980's and is in a fishing lodge resort in rural Georgia where Froggy LeSueur, a British demolition expert occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby airbase. This time Froggy brings along a friend, Charlie Baker who is pathologically shy and is overcome with fear at the thought of meeting strangers due to the fact his wife continually berates him for being "Boring" because he is a proofreader for a science fiction magazine and she flaunts her 23 affairs in his face. So Froggy tells Betty Meeks, the owner of the lodge that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English. This is to cheer Betty up because her place might be condemned and since she is elderly she won't get a chance to see all the beautiful foreign places Froggy has been to. However Charlie overhears more than he should about the evil plans of a sinister minister and his redneck associate as well as the fact that the minister's fiancee is pregnant. Charlie also learns many damaging revelations made by the others with the thought that he doesn't understand anything being said. The fact that he does understand what's going on, makes him help the good guys overcome the evil Ku Klux Klan, thereby conquering them, overcoming his shyness and helping to change his and three other people's lives for the better, all at the same time. Alan Hawkridge directs his seven talented performers perfectly in this madcap comic romp. The gorgeous fishing lodge resort set by Cheryl DeWardner is so realistic one feels if they could move inside it for a three week vacation. The made up foreign language spoken by Charlie is hilarious to hear and watch as he tries to get the others to understand what he is saying. To quote him "Blasni, Blasni" which in his language means Bravo, Bravo for a job very well done which earns the talented student cast a standing ovation on opening night.

Alan brings out the comic moments beautifully and gives each performer a chance to shine in their roles. Each role is a character role and he makes each of them different from the other. The British and southern accents are excellently executed by the cast and stage manager Max Ponticelli keeps the scene changes moving along quickly, keeping the show's quick pace from start to finish. The sound design by Michael Hyde includes a rain storm complete with thunder and lightning and an explosion with the lighting design by Renee Surprenant and the costumes are by Rachael Ralby. (Renee and Rachael are senior theatre majors.) Loved the rolling hubcap on stage after the outdoor explosion. This cast is lead by Johnny Sederquist and his portrayal of Charlie Baker is splendid with fantastic facial expressions and wonderful line deliveries in an English accent and in his made up foreign language. (Blit is no and gock is yes) Charlie who is a proof reader, feels boring and inadequate due to his wife's 23 affairs but his time in Georgia helps him to overcome his doubts and he becomes a hero, too. Johnny's interactions with the other characters is wonderful as he helps a dimwitted boy win his inheritance, brings adventure to an old lady stuck in this backwards town, helps a pregnant woman escape the clutches of her awful boyfriend, taunts her beau and his horrible redneck pal with his secret insults in his hidden tongue. Johnny's acting out with his pantomime's including screaming and falling up and down behind the sofa and the foreign language of the little red riding hood tale has to be seen and heard to be fully enjoyed because the audience understands what he is saying even though he is speaking gibberish. His dancing crazily and his ominous incantation to scare the hoodlums are topnotch, too as is the scene where he gets Owen to exit the house when Charlie is explaining to David where his country is located by using a map of Georgia. Blasni to Johnny! It is the first time I have seen him perform on stage but I am sure I will be seeing more of this young man in future productions.

Charlie's chum, Froggy is well played by Benjamin Gracia. (He just played the evil Jud in "Oklahoma" as well as having appeared in "Small Tragedy" and "Stuff Happens") He makes this bombastic, heavy drinking British soldier come to life. Ben shows his exasperation at trying to get Charlie to be more sociable and does a turn on a dime when he concocts the foreigner story to help bolster Betty up due to her problems at the lodge. Froggy can hardly believe that Charlie has fooled all the people with his shenanigans but supplies the needed turn of events to make Charlie and his three new friends very happy. Betsy Rinaldi is very comical as Betty Meeks. Being a young person she imitates the stooped over behavior of an older woman very well. Betty misconstrues almost everything Charlie says to her including her forcing him to keep a glass on his head during breakfast, her thinking that there is a tractor in his red riding hood story and that he wants her to play her harmonica for him. She constantly yells at him as if he is deaf which is very humorous, too. Betsy's funniest bit comes after the explosion when Johnny jumps in her arms and she holds him up for quite a long time. (Betsy hails from Coventry and also appeared in "Oklahoma".) Jennifer Michaels plays Catherine Simms, a former debutante whose father has left her a huge inheritance. She is bithcy and unhappy during the first act due to her being pregnant but mellows out in the second act due to Charlie's sympathetic and understanding nature, becoming enamored of him.(She reads an old magazine in the lodge about Princess Diana giving birth to her first son but not having named it yet and her brother thinks Buddy will be a good name for the baby.) Her dimwitted brother, Ellard is played by Michael Puppi who I have reviewed numerous times at Narragansett High School. He is another scene stealer, clad in overalls with a bib and wild hair. Ellard turns out the be smarter than anyone thinks especially when he finds a croquet mallet and acts like King Buddy who Charlie has made up to be a hero to give Ellard courage when the Klan descends upon the lodge. Michael's eating and teaching scenes with Johnny are hysterical when they eat eggs, drop glasses on the floor and especially when he teaches him how to identify objects in the lodge and outside by their Southern English definitions.

Nile Hawver who has matinee idol good looks, gets a chance to portray a cad in David who is a minister after having played Curly in "Oklahoma" and appearing in "Stuff Happens" in 2007. However things seem to be too good to be true and as Charlie witnesses the exchange between David and Owen, he discovers their true motives toward Betty, Catherine and Ellard. Nile's acting is wonderful as this smarmy character and the audience enjoys it when David gets his comeuppance for his miserable behavior. Last but not least is Cory Crew Jr. who hails from New York. He plays Owen Musser who is one of the nastiest villains in this show as he takes advantage of an old lady and tries to kill Charlie because he is a foreigner. Cory spouts awful, racist dialogue at Charlie and the others but the comic moments help to temper it as he gets the crap scared out of him and the Ku Klux Klan. To help Cory who has an angelic looking face, look evil, he wears fake side burns, a wife beater T-shirt and a flannel shirt with the sleeves ripped off. (I also reviewed Cory in "Oklahoma" where he played the comical Peddler as well as in "Stuff Happens".) A huge boo and hiss to Nile and Cory for being horrible villains but excelling in their roles while doing so. So for a trip back to the 1980's in Georgia, be sure to catch "The Foreigner" at URI before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Foreigner" (26 February - 8 March)
UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
@ Robert E. Will Theatre, Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1 (401)874-5843

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