BWW Reviews: THE FOREIGNER is Billed as a Comedy, but Contains an Unfortunate and Shocking Ending
THE FOREIGNER is billed a two-act comedy by American playwright Larry Shue. It has been revived a great many times, from the high school to the professional level, including a well-received 2004 off-Broadway production featuring Matthew Broderick as Charlie. But I tend to agree with Frank Rich who saw the opening night performance at the Astor in New York and wrote that the play "desperately wants to provide some silly fun," but judged that "its convoluted shenanigans hardly seem worth the effort."
Theater Palisades advertises the play this way: Timid Englishman Charlie has come to a small southern town in America to escape his unhappy life and wants only to be left alone. His friend Froggy has the perfect solution: he will tell everyone that Charlie doesn't know a word of English. Silent Charlie finds himself drawn into the people around him and when a couple of villains try to hurt his new friends, Charlie swings into action to save the day!
That description certainly sugar coats the shocking ending which offended this writer so much so that I nearly walked out of the theater. The 'Klan' shows up, in full regalia - robes and hoods - to save the white Christians from foreigners, blacks and Jews. How is it that a play with content such as this is still performed on American stages? I fully intend to never see it again, no matter who performs it.
That being said, there are three standout performers in this production that deserves praise for their work. Alan Curelop plays Charlie Baker, the foreigner who supposedly speaks little English so the other inhabitants at the lodge feel free to speak their minds around him. The funniest moment in the play occurs as he tells a story in complete gibberish, acting out what he is saying so you can understand most of it. But that will not matter as it is the laughter that drives the scene. During the play, Charlie speaks the phrase Klaatu barada nikto twice uses Gort, the robot's name, referring to the famous line in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still lending credence to his own self-stated job as an editor of science fiction.
Martha Hunter plays the quirky lodge owner Betty with all the motherly concern required for the role with an edge of Southern charm. She is perfect in the role but suffers from rather clunky blocking rather than the frenetic pace she should be kept moving about the stage.
David Narloch plays the dimwitted Ellard Simms who provides the positive message of the play that once you value yourself, anything is possible. Narloch is a joy to watch as he enthusiastically teaches Charlie his first words in English, wheeling in items he finds around the lodge to use as examples.
This production is directed as a simple comedy by Tony Torrisi rather than as the farce it really is. This caused the uncomfortable ending to be SHOCKING rather than funny. It is produced by Sherman Wayne (who designed the lovely and totally functional set) and Maria O'Connor. Also featured in the cast are Craig Stevens, Cody Metzger, Nick Thompson, and Rodney K. Carrington.
Performances run November 8 - December 15, 2013 on Friday and Saturdays and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m at Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Dr., Pacific Palisades 90272
Ticket Prices: Adults: $20, Seniors & Students $18
Box Office (310) 454-1970