BWW Reviews: THE FOREIGNER at Clear Space Theatre Company Is Hysterical, Heartwarming
Larry Shue's The Foreigner is a story in which several victimized people find the strength to face down their tormentors and be happy. It could have been very earnest or even mawkish - or both - but as Shue wrote it and as Clear Space Theatre Company presents it, it is at least as hysterical as it is heartwarming.
Charlie (David Warick) is a middle-aged middle-class middle-management type with a severely low self-image. He loves his wife, who despises him. He loves her despite knowing that she's had more than one or two affairs (way more). While Charlie's wife is in the hospital, his friend "Froggy" LeSueur (Jerry Birl) decides that he needs to get away and relax. Froggy, a demolitions expert, arranges for Charlie to travel as his assistant when he goes to a conference in Georgia. While Froggy confers, Charlie can relax at a rural resort run by Froggy's old friend Betty Meeks (Cheryl Graves).
Charlie wants to avoid any interaction with new people and pleads with Froggy not to leave him. Instead, Froggy fabulates a new identity for Charlie - that of a foreigner who neither speaks nor understands a word of English. He tells Betty that Charlie would be intensely embarrassed if anyone so much as spoke to him. Betty agrees to caution her other lodgers and visitors about this. From this seemingly simple arrangement will flow many unanticipated outcomes.
Betty's other guests include Rev. David Lee (Darren Bobby), his fiancée Catherine Sims (Erin Williams), and her brother Ellard (David Button). A local yokel, Owen Musser (Lance Ekas), completes the group.
Because "the foreigner" can't understand, Catherine feels comfortable confiding her secret feelings to him. For the same reason, David and Owen do not hesitate to discuss secret business in his presence. Betty is not bothered in the least - she knows she "gets through" to Charlie by speaking LOUDLY and slowly. Ellard, amiable and outgoing, is mentally challenged and takes a simpler view of life. Being familiar with "coming from behind," Ellard undertakes to teach Charlie to speak English (You eat with a fow-erk and warm the room with a fahr.) Charlie learns much about each of them and much about himself.
Charlie is the central character and catalyst and Mr. Warick, who has a very mobile and expressive face and, it would appear a lot of energy, uses all of himself to bring the emergent "foreigner" to life. Mr. Button's Ellard is never a caricature; he is simple, direct, and full of joy. Mr. Birl gives us a bluff, brash, results-oriented "Froggy" and Ms. Graves' Betty is sincere, friendly, and straightforward. Ms. Williams moves Catherine from repressed and a bit aloof to warm and confident. Mr. Bobby's David Lee seems a bit understated, both when he's gently counseling his fiancée about her brother's condition and when he's proclaiming his political manifesto. Mr. Ekas' Owen Musser is a quintessential "redneck" who has his own ideas about the proper way to deal with this "foreigner."
Director Doug Yetter has made the most of the cast's talents and characteristics and has left no gaps or pauses longer than the audience needs to assimilate new information. Kevin Smith's (absolutely no relation to me or, he says, to the movie writer/director from New Jersey) set is packed with all kinds of "finds" (including a cigar machine) that create the right "feel" for a rural Georgia fishing lodge. I did wonder, though, why no one used the French doors.
Ginger Angstadt's lighting design allowed the actors to use every part of both the thrust and proscenium portions of the stage and helped to focus attention where needed. Special lighting and pyrotechnics made the climax especially effective. Sounds, designed by Kevin Carter, were likewise effective, particularly the prolonged thunderstorm that sets the opening scene.
The Foreigner continues at Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth through October 13, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:00 PM and a Sunday matinee at 3:00 PM. Call (302) 227-2270 or visit www.clearspacetheatre.org. Run time is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.