THE FOREIGNER Returns to Newnan Theatre Company, 5/8

THE FOREIGNER  Returns to Newnan Theatre Company, 5/8

By Joan Doggrell

Larry Shue's "The Foreigner" has been a favorite with Newnan audiences for years. Lamar Payne, winner of a Newnan Theatre Company Lifetime Achievement Award, is directing this outrageous farce for the third time, and Tony Daniel, NTC's artistic director, is once again playing the role of the villainous Owen Musser.

"Years ago, when I first directed this play, I could not get through a rehearsal without laughing at Tony," said Payne. "He just cracked me up. He is amazingly funny."

The situation at the start of the play is ripe for complications. Two Englishmen come to stay at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. One of them, a British soldier named "Froggy" LeSueur, just wants to fish. The other, Charlie Baker, just wants to be left alone. He's come to America with his friend to get away from problems in his marriage, and the prospect of conversing with other guests does not appeal to him. So Froggy suggests that he claim to be a foreigner who can't speak a word of English.

Betty Meeks is a well-meaning, motherly lady who owns the lodge. Also living there are Catherine Simms, a Southern belle and heiress, her slow-witted brother Ellard, and the Rev. David Marshall Lee, who is engaged to Catherine.

Because people presume he can't understand them, revealing conversations take place in Charlie's presence. This turns out to be therapeutic for some of the characters. "We could say that everyone in the story excepting the bad guys develops a personality through Charlie," said Payne. "They all discover who they really are underneath their shyness and awkwardness, anger and loneliness. Charlie brings them out of their shells."

"To me, the best part of the whole play is seeing Ellard grow," added Payne. "He goes from being an awkward, misunderstood, seemingly stupid child to an incredible character at the end."

But all interactions in Charlie's presence are not benign. Reverend Marshall, who seems to be a good guy, chooses to discuss his nefarious plans for getting the lodge away from Betty as soon as he marries Catherine and takes control of her inheritance.

Like the play itself, most of the players are well known to Newnan audiences for their work in previous shows. Laura and William Pratesi made their NTC debut three years ago as Cinderella and the Prince. William thrilled the audience by formally proposing to Laura on stage, placing a real diamond on her finger. This time, William has the role of Charlie Baker. "He's going to be great in this," said Payne. "He's got just the right look and demeanor to play this character. " Laura plays Catherine, engaged to the Reverend David Marshall Lee.

Bert Lyons is cast as Froggy, the British soldier. Lyons, another NTC stalwart, has acted and directed at NTC for many years. He is hard at work at perfecting his British accent.

Betty Meeks is played by Karrie Jones, the drama director at Heritage School. She was last seen on the NTC stage in 2012 in an outstanding performance as Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Previously she was superb as a dying cancer patient in "Wit," directed by Jeff Allen.

Katherine's brother Ellard is played by William Newman. Newman has been in several productions at NTC, but this is his first major role. He has studied drama under Karrie Jones at The Heritage School and is one of her best pupils. Drew Turner returns to the mainstage as Rev. David Lee. He was last seen in "August: Osage County" and is a member of the N.I.T.W.I.T.S. improv troupe at NTC.

"Some people may think the subject matter is a little touchy," said Payne. "But it's all handled with a comedic attitude, and everyone will appreciate it. It's a great comedy - just a belly laugh and a good time."

Larry Shue died in a plane crash in 1985 following a run of 686 performances in New York City. Since then, "The Foreigner" has become a staple with both amateur and professional theater companies. The play has earned two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production.

The show opens at NTC on Thursday, May 8, and runs through Sunday, May 18. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the NTC website, www.newnantheatre.org, or via phone by calling 770.683.6282.

Performance times and ticket prices are as follows:

May 8, 8:00 pm, $7.00 for all

May 9, 8:00 pm, $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

May 10, 8:00 pm, $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

May 11, 3:00 pm $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

May 15, 8:00 pm, $7.00 for all

May 16, 8:00 pm, $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

May 17, 8:00 pm, $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

May 18, 3:00 pm, $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults

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