Theatre Mirror Reviews"The Foreigner"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"The Foreigner"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The opening show of Walpole Footlighter's 89th season is Larry Shue's delightful farce, "The Foreigner". The show takes place in a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. The lodge's owner, Mrs. Meeks and the current lodgers, a minister, his fiancee and her dimwitted brother welcome British demolition expert Froggy and his British proofreader friend, Charlie Baker to town. Charlie who is shy, pretends he doesn't speak English which gives the show its title. His wife constantly berates him for being "Boring" and she flaunts her affairs in his face. Add a red neck bully to the characters and you have the ingredients for this hilarious show. Kat-Alix Gaudreau directs her seven talented performers wonderfully in this madcap comic romp. 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 "Ain't it fun" for a job well done.

Kat brings out the comic moments beautifully and gives each performer a chance to shine in their roles. Each role is a character role and she makes each of them different from the other. The British and southern accents are topnotch.  The gorgeous fishing lodge set is by Chris Carda.It is so realistic you could move into it. This cast is lead by Roger Campbell and his portrayal of Charlie Baker is splendid with fantastic facial expressions. His made up foreign language is a hoot with blit for no and gock for yes. Charlie 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. Roger's interactions with the other characters are excellent 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 secret insults in his hidden tongue. His foreign language of the little red riding hood tale has to be seen and heard to be believed. The audience understands what he is saying even though he is speaking gibberish. Roger's dancing crazily and his ominous incantation to scare the hoodlums are topnotch. Kudos on a terrific performance.

Charlie's chum, Froggy is well played by Brian London. He makes Froggy, this bombastic heavy drinking soldier come to life. Brian 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 fooled all the people with his shenanigans but supplies the necessary turn of events to make Charlie and his three new friends happy. Barbara Pettis is very comical as Betty Meeks. 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. Betty constantly yells at him as if he is deaf which is very humorous, too. Christie Reading plays Catherine Simms, a former debutante whose father left her a huge inheritance. She is bitchy and unhappy during the first act due to being pregnant but mellows out in the second act due to Charlie's sympathetic and understanding nature, becoming enamored of him. Christie has a monologue she delivers to Roger beautifully. Catherine 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. I last reviewed her in "Urinetown" last October. Her dimwitted brother, Ellard is excellently played by Peter McElhinney who I last reviewed as the director of "Spreading It Around" last May. He is another scene stealer, clad in overalls with a bib. Ellard turns out the be smarter than anyone thinks especially when he finds a croquet mallet and acts like King Buddy who Charlie made up to be a hero. This gives him the courage to stand up when the Klan descends upon the lodge. Peter's eating and teaching scenes with Roger are hilarious when they eat eggs, drop glasses on the floor and especially when Ellard teaches him how to identify objects in the lodge and outside by their Southern English definitions.

Roger Alix Gaudreau  who has matinee idol good looks and is Kat's real life husband, gets a chance to portray a cad in David who is a minister. However things seem to be too good to be true and as Charlie witnesses the exchange between David and Owen, discovers their true motives toward Betty, Catherine and Ellard. Roger'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 Jim Daly as 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. Jim 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. A huge boo and hiss to Roger and Jim 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 Walpole Footlighters. It will keep you laughing all night long.

"The Foreigner" (19 October - 4 November)
@ 2 Scout Road, WALPOLE MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide