BWW Previews: Dogstar Theater Presents THE FOREIGNER at Center Stage Theater
The Foreigner, Larry Shue's battle-of-the-hillbillies farce, brings slapstick situation comedy to Center Stage Theater October 20-22. Produced by Dogstar Theater Company, who introduced themselves to Santa Barbara with last spring's charming rendition of Last Train to Nibroc, The Foreigner spins stereotypic Americana into a physical comedy-based battle between good and evil.
Two Brits are vacationing at a hunting lodge in rural Georgia. One of the men, Charlie, is painfully shy and doesn't want to be bothered during his weekend away, so his friend, Froggy, tells the proprietress of the lodge that Charlie is from a far-away land and doesn't speak English: thus, the "foreigner" is born. Hijinks ensue as the residents and guests of the lodge begin revealing their secrets to (or in the presence of) the mysterious "foreign" guest. Social expectations are thrown out the window as the Americans extend their sensitivities to Charlie's strange customs--which he makes up on the fly. But there're bigger catfish to fry: Charlie commits to his role and to the relationships he's developed while in character, even when he finds himself in the middle of a dispute between the lodge and local Klansmen.
Dogstar's founders, Nita and Justin Davanzo, have developed their upcoming show to provide necessary comic diversion from the morass of disaster and intolerance in the news. "(City Garage Theater), the theater where Justin and I met, was avant garde and pretty politically driven," says Nita. "So much so that people would leave the theater not just shocked; their perspectives weren't just jarred, but wrecked and shattered. I feel like we wake up every day to that...it's this constant barrage of horrific news. I chose this play out of a politically driven mindset, but it's not a political play." Instead, the Davanzos say, it's a piece about relationships, about finding extraordinariness within ordinary lives. Justin, who plays Charlie (the "foreigner"), says the play is first and foremost a crazy adventure with loveable characters.
Despite pointing the spotlight away from social commentary, certain aspects of the show, such as the threat of white-supremacist terrorists, are (unfortunately) timely. In terms of theatric representation, the KKK is ripe for caricature: the perception of the Klan is so ubiquitously malevolent that they're an easy exemplification of evil in a farcical situation; they also have an existing tendency for demonstrations of melodrama (with the torches and the robes and the fire). The alarming visibility of white supremacy in recent months will certainly remind the audience of the malignant roots of this stereotype, but Dogstar also emphasizes tolerance, compassion, and empathy in their production, as seen through how the characters treat the "foreigner": with awe and appreciation.
The Foreigner features Justin Davanzo, Ming Lauren Holden, Matt Smith, Leslie Story, Matt Cooper, Tyler X Koontz, and Van Riker.
A portion of the ticket sales will go to the Anti-Defamation League.
There will be a talkback after the show Sunday, October 22.
Listen to a conversation with Justin and Nita Davanzo on TheatrixSB.com.
Dogstar Theater Company presents:
By Larry Shue
Directed by Nita Davanzo
October 20-22 at Center Stage Theater