BWW Reviews: THE FOREIGNER at Vagabond Players Imports Comedy and Mayhem

May 15
6:08 AM 2014
BWW Reviews: THE FOREIGNER at Vagabond Players Imports Comedy and Mayhem

THE FOREIGNER at Vagabond Players Imports Comedy and Mayhem

Farce is probably my favorite theatrical genre, so feel free to consider my comments... somewhat biased.

Larry Shue's THE FOREIGNER, first produced in 1983, has all the endearing qualities of classical farce. It has much in common with 1940s farce productions, including ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, HARVEY and their close film cousins, the "screwball comedies". In fact, it is a historical contemporary of NOISES OFF (1982), though it feels more closely akin to CHARLEY'S AUNT (1892).

Typically a one-set show, farce relies on physical comedy, misunderstandings and mistaken identities, leading to a tendency to be skimpy on monologues. I didn't show up at the theater looking to hear monologues. I was looking for some goofy antics and silly situations. The Vagabond Players delivered.

Please don't be a stickler for accuracy and consistency of the accents you hear in this piece. You'll have a much better time. What's important about this cast is chemistry, timing and commitment to physical comedy, at which several of them excel. If some teeter towards overacting, the earnest goodwill they pour into the performance is endearing enough to compensate.

Director Steve Goldklang has a gift for arranging clever, comedic tableaux that enable the audience to see every character clearly, no minor stunt with five actors on a small stage. Of course, he does have some high-end talent to work with, particularly Eric C. Stein in the role of Charlie, of whom my guest said "HE is an excellent clown"; high praise indeed. None of the physical comedy feels forced, and some fairly complicated choreography is made smooth and unmuddied by the efficiently designed set.

The set, painstakingly crowded with rural artifacts, calls to mind every cliche you've ever heard about "the back of beyond," which is where THE FOREIGNER is set. Backwoods Georgia, in fact, is the setting, which accounts for some of the accents. The set also features mobile pieces that permit actor rearrangements and flexible playing space.

A nod to the techs: I have a special appreciation for the thunderstorm and appropriately wet costumes at the top of the show. The lighting especially was well done- appropriate, subtle and well-timed.

This production is a joyous two-hour romp in our oldest continuously-running theatrical venue. Vagabonds Players once again displays superior comedic chops.

THE FOREIGNER plays at Vagabonds Players Theatre through May 18th, 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 pm on Sundays.

For tickets, call 410-563-9135or visit http://www.vagabondplayers.org/tickets.html

Photo Credit: Tom Lauer

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