On Friday, May 9, 2008, I drove to Studio 15, just off Main Street in Carmel, to see the Carmel Community Players’ presentation of “The Foreigner,” by Larry Shue. It was directed by Ron Creviston, assisted by Dick Davis. They share production credit.
The show closed this past weekend, on Sunday, May 18, but I didn’t have a chance to write about it until today. Even though this review won’t help anyone decide whether or not to go see it, I want to write it anyway. I want to record my impressions of this show so that when it receives some Encore nominations this fall for excellence in community theatre (as I am sure that it will!) I can come back here to my blog and re-live the pleasure that I felt when I saw the show.
“The Foreigner” is a story about the people at Betty Meeks’ (Joan Walker) Fishing Lodge Resort in Tilghman County, Georgia, but in many ways it could take place here in Indiana, too. Or really, anywhere, I suppose. People everywhere sometimes get flustered and act funny when there is a foreigner in their midst. If they (we) are lucky, they learn as much about themselves as they teach the foreigner about their home. They receive as much as they give.
But let me back up: Kindly, salt-of-the-earth Betty runs the fishing lodge, but it is not doing very well, especially now that the building inspector is threatening to shut her down. For some reason that I didn’t quite understand, the slick local minister, Rev. David Marshall Lee (Greg Mayfield) and his delicately beautiful fiancee, Catherine Simms (Krista Richter), are both living at the lodge, along with Catherine’s brother, Ellard Simms (Dave Rosencrans), who is a little mentally challenged.
Catherine is debating whether or not to give Ellard his share of their huge inheritance. She is also missing her former life as a debutante, worrying about the baby that she just learned is on the way, and wondering if she has it in her to be a good minister’s wife, especially when her beloved is so very, very good and generous himself.
Little does she know.
But WE find out that Catherine is actually a true Southern lady, and the good reverend is actually a scum-bag, scheming to make Ellard look incompetent and lusting after Catherine’s wealth for his own nefarious purposes. Purposes that involve white sheets and burning crosses. His creepy buddy, Owen Musser (Mike Harold), is the housing code inspector trying to shut Betty down. Owen is also finagling to become sheriff. Between the two of them, David and Owen will first use their wealth and power to rid the world of any and all impurities and then rule their Invisible Empire from their base at the fishing lodge. Mwaa-ha-ha-a-a!
Into this mix pops S/Sgt. “Froggy” LeSeur (Steve Wrighton), an old friend of Betty’s and some kind of British or Australian military, I think, but I didn’t catch how he had come to be on a mission in Georgia. Or how they had become friends, for that matter.
There were several parts of the story that I just let slide over me. Probably they were explained at some point, but at first I was too busy enjoying the fabulous set (designed by Ron Creviston and Dick Davis and decorated by Lori Raffel) and later I was distracted by Steve Wrighton’s good looks combined with Froggy’s teasing, flirtatious personality. And so, by the time I started to concentrate on what was being said, it was too late for me to catch a lot of the background. Ah, well.
I also didn’t catch why Froggy’s meek English friend, Charlie Baker (Harry Goodin), was visiting him in Georgia, especially when Charlie had just learned that his wife back home was ill. We learn pretty quickly that she had been cheating on him, but still: I don’t think that’s what brought him to the States.
And he is terribly shy! So shy, so shatteringly afraid that he is boring, so deathly allergic to conversation, that he begs his gregarious friend, Froggy, to help him, to somehow make it possible for him not to have to talk with anyone while he is staying at the lodge.
You guessed it: Froggy comes up with the idea of telling Betty and everyone that Charlie is from some bizarre foreign country and does not speak or understand a word of English. Then he goes back to his military mission, leaving Charlie on his own.
The rest of the play is how Charlie – aka the foreigner – helps the good guys and foils the bad guys, all while holding up a sort of mirror to each character and amplifying his or her strengths and weaknesses.
Oh, I am not explaining it very well! But the show is very funny, without being offensive. The scene in which the Klan appears (supplemented by Bob McKelvey and William Fouts as Townspeople) is quite chilling, but mostly, the show is funny. Some lines and bits made me yelp with laughter.
When Charlie told a whole story in “his language” (gibberish), and Betty, Ellard, and Catherine each had their own interpretation of it, I just howled. Then I cheered for Charlie’s expressiveness and energy!
As I say, I was smitten with Steve Wrighton/Froggy at first, and I thought poor Charlie was rather bland in comparison, but by the end of the show I was completely filled with admiration for both Charlie and his actor, Harry Goodin.
Actually, one of my notes says, “All strong actors!”
Dave Rosencrans as the “slow” Ellard made me think of Elvis Presley at his least lucid at first. Later he made me roar when he said, “I get paid to think” or something like that. And when he was “teaching” Charlie the English names for things – “fo-erk” (two syllables!) and “art” (the deer head on the wall!) – I laughed and laughed, too.
I enjoyed several aspects of the technical designs as well. I already mentioned the set. I loved the attention to detail – the room keys were in the shape of fishes! – and the convincing effect of the whole: there were all kinds of stuffed animal head trophies on the walls, an authentic-looking door in the floor leading “down” to the cellar, a stairway that really did seem to lead up to a second floor, a wonderful old stove, and more.
I loved the thunder and lightning effects during the storm and the subtle bird calls at dawn. (Sound and lighting designs by Dick Davis and Ron Creviston.)
Catherine’s ringlets were appropriately lady-like. I loved Froggy’s camouflage outfit, too. I already mentioned how sobering the Klan outfits were. I didn’t make a lot of notes about costumes but, thinking back, everyone’s appearance seemed just right. (Stephanie Knolls and Linda Schornhorst did the costumes, with “additional costumes provided by several cast members.”)
According to the program, Dick Davis and Steve Wrighton were responsible for the special effects. I assume this refers to the explosions and the great trick that Ellard, Catherine, Betty, and Charlie play on the Klan in order to escape. It was, indeed, special. And very satisfying!
I also want to say a word about the Props Crew (Eric Mayfield and Joan Walker.) There was a lot of food in this show: everything from once-bitten apples to big ‘ole Southern breakfasts. Props to the props people for managing it all so well!
I could have done without the talking fish at the end, but I don’t care for the one in my friend’s house, either, so there you go.
By the way, I got to sit next to Jeremy Tuterow and Jim LaMonte from Spotlight Players. I was delighted to hear that the renovation of their new theatre space on the Main Street of Beech Grove is coming along very nicely. In the meantime, at the old space, Tuterow is currently directing “Voices from the High School,” by Peter Dee. It sounds as if the cast, which includes teens from several high schools, is blending very well. I am looking forward to seeing this show! It opens at Spotlight on June 13, 2008, and runs through June 29.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com