Larry Shue’s comedy "The Foreigner," directed by Murry McGibbon, at the Brown County Playhouse mixes a wildly comic premise with some serious comments on zenophobic racism and anti-semitisim.
Charlie Baker, played by Bill Simmons, is a painfully shy Englishman. Charlie is going through a bad patch in his life and simply dreads putting himself forward in conversation. Froggy LeSuer, Scot Purkeypile, is a British munitions expert on loan to the U.S. Army for a training weekend in Georgia. He’s brought Charlie along for some rest and relaxation in a remote fishing lodge.The bluff Froggy suggests that Charlie avoid any talk by simply pretending that he doesn’t speak any English. At first Charlie rejects this, but when he accidentally overhears a guilty intimate secret pass between the Reverend David Lee, Jonathan Molitor, and his bride to be, former debutante Catherine, Stephanie Dodge, Charlie becomes "The Foreigner."
Amazing things begin to happen around Charlie. Betty Meeks, Kate Braun, the owner of the lodge has always been captivated by the thought of foreign travel. Betty is simply thrilled at having a genuine foreign person as her guest. Kate Braun’s Betty blossoms. Ellerd, Deven Anderson, a boy thought to be a distracted half wit comes into himself as he teaches Charlie English. Owen Musser, played with frightening viciousness by Mike Mauloff, is revealed as a violently angy local Klansman in his baiting of Charlie. I hesitate to suggest anything that might soften a dramatic revelation of just how ugly this can be but Mauloff is so effective that it momentarily derails the show.
There are many very funny moments in "The Foreigner." The characters around Charlie accept and even imitate him. Charlie begins to enjoy his play acting and to revel in it. One of the comic highlights of the show is Charlie telling an extended story in gesture and gibberish. It captivated the characters on stage and the audience as well.
Larry Shue’s play is a richly comic farce. On opening night there were a few rough spots and timing wasn’t quite on here and there, but it was certainly good and as the show "plays in" it will get even better. "The Foreigner" plays Wednesdays through Sundays at the Brown County Playhouse through August second.
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