BWW Reviews: The Rep's Hilarious Production of THE FOREIGNER
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by Chris Gibson
Before his untimely death in a plane crash in the mid-1980's, playwright Larry Shue had penned two community theatre staples, The Nerd and The Foreigner. While I'm not a big fan of the former, the latter is a fast-paced farce brimming with humor that builds to a hilariously satisfying climax. The current production by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is nicely mounted and features a fine cast and direction that takes full advantage of the comic opportunities presented.
Charlie Baker's friend and former service mate, Froggy LeSeur takes his pal to a fishing lodge in rural Georgia in an effort to take his mind off his dying wife. But, Charlie is a painfully shy individual who's reluctant to stay anywhere where he'll be asked to join in conversation, especially with strangers. Froggy concocts a scheme that has Charlie posing as a foreigner, incapable of either understanding or speaking English. This conceit allows Charlie to eavesdrop on some rather interesting conversations that the other guests at the Inn are having regarding their personal lives and deceits. It also sparks a bit of personality in him, and, in the end, is something he holds on to rather fondly.
John Scherer is impeccable as Charlie, perfectly in character throughout the proceedings, and projecting the image of a sad and pitiable figure who has suddenly become something of a curio to those around him. Brent Landon is charming and upbeat as his buddy Froggy, and Carol Schultz brings a homey warmth to her role as the owner of this about to be condemned resort, Betty Meeks. Also in attendance are the Rev. David Marshall Lee, played overly sincerely by Matthew Carlson, and his pregnant fiancee Catherine Simms, the blunt and confused Winslow Corbett, who'd rather be living the life of a debutante, than marrying a preacher. Jay Smith is the slimy county property inspector Owen Musser who has wrangled a condemned notice from the state, even though the property only requires some brickwork to be redone. He and the Reverend are actually working together on a plot to buy the house cheap, and the Reverend is counting on his new wife's inheritance to make it all come true. Casey Predovic gives a spirited and enthusiastic performance as the slightly addled Ellard, Cathy's brother, who stand to inherit his own share of the fortune, if he's not declared incompetent. However, his attempts to teach “the foreigner” English belie any kind of true mental incapacity.
Edward Stern's direction keeps the action hopping along at a brisk gallop. Though some of the characters are rather sinister and unlikable, the tone is kept light throughout, and the climax is carried off with considerable aplomb. John Ezell's scenic design is simply amazing, as he deftly conjures up an authentic looking fishing resort that's seen better days. Dororthy Marshall Englis provides character-fitting costumes, and Peter Sargent nicely lights the action.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has put together an amusing production for the holidays, and The Foreigner is a well-constructed and executed comedy of errors and misunderstandings. If you're looking for a laugh during the holiday season check it out through December 23, 2012 at the Loretto-Hilton.