City Nights Dinner Theatre's latest show, "The Foreigner" takes place in a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. The lodge's owner(Marilyn Murphy Meardon) and the current lodgers, a reverend(Paul Oliver), his fiancee(Marissa Cramer) and her dimwitted brother(Michael Shurtleff) welcome British demolition expert Froggy(Robert C. Frederiksen) and his British proofreader friend, Charlie(Dan Gerstenlauer) to town. Charlie who's shy pretends he doesn't speak English giving the show its title and leading the audience into gales of laughter with his new laguage and manic antics. His character also changes the good peoples lives for the better and gives the despicable Ku Klux Clan their comeuppance. Throw in an evil red neck property inspector Owen played by Frank Siniscalchi to this bunch of zany characters and you have the makings of the wonderful comedy to follow.
Director Joan Dillenback casts each role extremely well and shows great insight to each character to differentiate them from each other. Joan's eye to detail is also apparent in the use of the set, lighting and special effects. The two story brown fishing cabin with a trap door designed and built by David Jepson and the thunder and lightening, daylight and blackout lighting by Kyle Peltier help complete Joan's vision of this wonderful show.
Dan"s portrayal of Charlie is a laugh riot from start to finish. His transition from proper British genltleman to a foreigner speaking gibberish is hysterical. Dan uses his character to help the lodge owner save her place from being condemned, to help save a young girl from marrying the wrong man and her slow brother to feel his self worth as a human being. He also puts the bigoted Owen in his place by using the language barrier and by finally tricking him to show the yellow nature of a bully. One of the funniest scenes is when Charlie tells a story in his "own" language by gestures, miming, running all over the stage and his made up words. Brilliant comic talent at work. I look forward to seeing Dan in future shows.
Veteran performers Bob Frederiksen as Froggy and Marilyn Meardon as the dingbat lodge owner, Betty Meeks bring their years of experience to their roles. Bob plays the British demolition expert in Georgia to help blow up some mountains. His role is of the observer and listener in the scenes and his reactions are right on the money. Marilyn with a perfect southern accent plays the Edith Bunker character to the hilt. She speaks to Charlie as if he's deaf, she pretends to understand the foreign language and comes to her own conclusions when being told a story. Marilyn is the personification of perfection in acting. She especially handles this comic role the same way. Great job to these two longtime performers.
Marissa Cramer as Catherine and Michael Shurtleff as her brother, Ellard are two young performers who shine in their roles, too. Marissa plays the part of the pregnant ingenuewho thinks her lover is perfect but with her brother and Charlie's help, realizes her mistake before it is too late. She handles her massive part very well and makes the audience sympathize with her plight. A talented young lady! Michael, a multi-talented actor, singer and dancer stands out in the role of the slow brother. His facial expressions, gestures and line delivery with the southern drawl and offcenter words bring gales of laughter to the audience. Michael just graduated from high school but has been performing for many years and this role shows how high he has progressed professionally in such a short period of time. The dinner and teaching words scenes with Charlie are comic gems and show both their mime and language abilities. I loved the glasses on the head bit!
Rounding out this excellent cast are the two villians of the piece, Paul Oliver(Rev. David) and Frank Siniscalchi(Owen). Paul plays the smarmy beau of Catherine who pretends he's a minister to bilk her out of her inheritance. He plays the good guy but rounds out his character with shades of gray sneaking in. Paul handles the role so well you don't realize his evil intentions until the last moment. Frank as Owen is a meanspirited redneck from his entance to his flight from the lodge in disgrace in his Klan outfit. This longtime actor brings a great deal of humor to this villianous role. Frank' reactions to the foreigner are very funny and it shows he is listening and reacting to the other performers actions and laughter around him. Run do not walk to this hilarious show. Have a wonderful run!