Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Foreigner"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"The Foreigner"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of 2nd Story's summer 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. So Froggy creates a perfect ruse and tells Betty Meeks, the owner of the lodge that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country who doesn't understand a word of English. This is to cheer Betty up because her place might be condemned. Once Froggy leaves, the visiting guests some good and some not so good, freely reveal their secrets in front of the "foreigner''.Through his careful disguise, Charlie discovers that a plot is afoot and becomes the hero of the day, foiling the evil doers' plan in a side-splitting rescue effort, overcoming his shyness and helping to change his and three other peoples lives for the better. Director Ed Shea picks the best 7 performers for these roles in this madcap comic romp. The made up foreign language spoken by Charlie is hilarious and to quote him "Blasni, Blasni" which in his language means bravo, bravo for a job well done.

Ed brings out the comic moments beautifully and gives each of his performers a chance to shine in their roles with each role being a character role in this show. The British and southern accents are topnotch, too. This cast is lead by Dante Sciarra 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 for a science fiction magazine, feels boring and inadequate due to his wife's 23 affairs but his time in Georgia helps him to overcome his doubts, becoming a hero, too. Dante'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 boyfriend, taunts her beau and his redneck pal with secret insults in his hidden tongue and one of the biggest laughs comes when he tells David and Owen it want to give it to them. The little red riding hood tale Charlie tells has to be seen and heard to be fully enjoyed. Dante is a superb dancer and choreographer and in this role gets to dance crazily while hurling incantations to frighten the hoodlums. Blasni on Dante's topnotch portrayal. Dante also appeared in many productions at Theatre by the Sea.

Charlie's chum, Froggy is well played by Tom Oakes. He makes this bombastic, heavy drinking British soldier come to life. Tom shows his exasperation at trying to get Charlie to be more sociable, 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 readily supplies the needed turn of events to make Charlie and his three new friends very happy. I last reviewed Tom in "The Voysey Inheritance" earlier this year. Elizabeth Hallenbeck is very comical as Betty Meeks. She misconstrues almost everything Charlie says to her including forcing him to keep a glass on his head during breakfast, thinking there is a tractor in his red riding hood story and wanting her to play her harmonica. Betty constantly yells at him as if he is deaf which is hilarious. Elizabeth handles her many lines with ease. I last reviewed her in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Erin Olson plays Catherine Simms, a former debutante whose father has left her a huge inheritance. She is bitchy 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. Erin adds depth to this role and handles the transition beautifully. Her dimwitted brother, Ellard is excellently played by Dillon Medina. He steals many scenes in this show. He is clad in jeans and has crew cut hair. Ellard turns out to 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. A laugh out loud moment comes when he presses his face against the glass on the front door when he first meets Charlie. Dillon's eating and teaching scenes with Dante are hysterical when they eat eggs, drop glasses on the floor and especially when he teaches Charlie how to identify objects inside and outside by their Southern English definitions. Some of the table antics are reminiscent of the Marx Brothers. I reviewed Dillon earlier this year in "The Underpants" and in "Comic Potential" which he did a superior job in.

Ara Bohigian who has matinee idol looks plays David who is a minister engaged to Catherine. 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. Ara's acting is wonderful as this smarmy character and the audience enjoys when David get his comeuppance for his behavior. He shows off his temper a couple of times as this supposed mild mannered man of the Lord. Ara played Hugh in "The Voysey Inheritance". Last but not least is Joe Henderson. 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. Joe 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. He has a goatee and a wife beater T-shirt. I haven't seen Joe since I directed him in "They're Playing Our Song" at the Newport Playhouse back in 1985. So for a trip back to Georgia in the 1980's be sure to catch "The Foreigner" at 2nd Story Theater. This fantastic farce wins a standing ovation as its reward.

"The Foreigner" (11 August - 5 September)
@ 28 Market Street, WARREN RI

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