Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Foreigner"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"The Foreigner"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The latest show at Granite Theatre is the comedy, "The Foreigner" which takes place in 1982 and is set in a fishing lodge in rural Georgia where Froggy LeSeuer, a British demolition expert occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby army base. This time Froggy has brought along a friend, Charlie Baker who is pathologically shy and is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers. So Froggy tells Betty Meeks, the owner of the lodge that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English. 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 other damaging revelations made by the others with the thought that he doesn't understand anything being said. The fact that he does understand and eventually helps the good guys overcome the evil Ku Klux Klan, conquering his them and overcoming his shyness at the same time. Gary Sullivan directs his seven talented performers perfectly in this madcap comic romp. The foreign language spoken by Charlie is hilarious to hear and watch as he tries to make the others understand what he is saying, winning the cast a standing ovation on opening night.

Gary brings the comic moments out and gives each actor a chance to shine in their roles. Each role is a character role and he makes everyone of them unique from each other. The British and southern accents by the cast are excellently executed and the scene changes by stage manager, Morgan Ban Draoi are quickly done, keeping the show's pace moving along smoothly. The sound design by David LaRocque includes a rain storm and an explosion and is run by Tai Scavetta who also handles the numerous lighting changes. The two story fishing lodge set by artistic director David Jepson is wonderful with its rustic touches and its hidden trapdoor which plays a big part in their comic adventures. The cast is lead by Bill Martuscello, a Eugene O'Neill Best Actor award winner. His portrayal of Charlie Baker is splendid with his fantastic facial expressions and wonderful line deliveries in English and in his made up foreign language. (Blit is no and gock is yes) Charlie feels inadequate due to his wife's 23 affairs but his time in Georgia helps him overcome his doubts and he becomes a hero, too. His interactions with the other characters is perfect 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 and taunts her beau and his horrible redneck pal with his secret insults in his hidden tongue. His little red riding hood tale has to be seen and heard to be believed because the audience gets what he is saying even though he is speaking gibberish. It may be Bill's first time on the Granite stage but his acting career started when he was five years old and he hasn't stopped since then. Bravo on a job well done.

Charlie's chum, Froggy is played wonderfully by Greg Bliven. He makes this bombastic, heavy drinking British soldier come to life. Greg is a whirlwind as he tries to encourage Charlie to be more sociable and as he concocts the foreigner story to help bolster Betty up due to her problems at the lodge. Michelle Donovan is a hoot as Betty who misconstrues almost everything Charlie says to her including a tractor and a harmonica and her imitation of a chicken is a laugh out loud moment, too. Another scene stealer is Brian Olsen as the dimwitted, Ellard who turns out to be smarter than anyone thinks. His eating and teaching scenes are hysterical as he teaches Charlie how to eat scrambled eggs while putting a glass on his head and how to identify objects in the lodge by their English definitions. Lauren Dulude, a recent Rhode Island College graduate, plays Ellard's sister Catherine. The character is unhappy at first due to her predicament but becomes enamored of Charlie later on and mellows out due to his sympathetic and understanding nature. John Brennan usually plays farcical roles but the role of David, gives him chance to play a cad. Charlie observes David telling Ellard to bring Catherine a carrot when she asked for a candle as well as watching David's weird conversations with his horrid friend. John's closing moments show the characters true colors and he gets his comeuppance. Last but not least is Rick Bagley as 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. The Ku Klux Klan's entrance in the second act is frightening but the comic moments help to temper it. Rick oozes smarmy, awful dialogue at Charlie and the others but he captures the true essence of the role while performing it. So for a topnotch hilarious comedy, be sure to catch "The Foreigner" in Westerly. You'll be glad you did and tell them Tony sent you.

"The Foreigner" (8 - 31 July)
1 Granite Street, WESERLY RI
1 (401) 596-2341

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide