|Charlie (Boyd Morrison) and Froggy (Phillip Keiman)|
Review by Luanne Brown
Photos by James Sipes
While “The Foreigner” isn’t by William Shakespeare, it does have some of the Bard’s most beautiful expressions in it. And like any good work of Shakespeare, playwright Larry Shue (July 23, 1946 – September 23, 1985) manages to tell a tale that while farcical in nature reveals deeper human truths.
The story goes like this: Charlie Baker (Boyd Morrison), a boring British science-fiction magazine editor, is spirited away to a rural retreat in Georgia. Apparently, Charlie is so boring, even his dying wife wanted him gone. When Charlie discovers his place of refuge is a lodge with other guests, he freaks out. He’s simply no good at talking to anyone about anything. His friend, Staff Sargent Froggy LeSueur (Phillip Keiman) concocts a cock-eyed story that Charlie doesn’t speak English, so he won’t be expected to participate in lodge-life.
This set-up leads to great hilarity as the other characters in this tale come on stage. While hostess, Betty Meeks (Melanie Calderwood) is no Betty Crocker, she has kindness in her heart and truly believes the louder she speaks to Charlie, the more he’ll understand.
|Rev. Lee (David Bailey) and Catherine Simms (Debra Rich)|
The unctuous Reverend David Marshall Lee (David Bailey) and his magnolia-blossom bride-to-be, Catherine Simms (Debra Rich) are less than welcoming to Charlie — at first. The Rev, although suspicious of Charlie, is more intrigued by Catherine’s inheritance and does everything he can to get Catherine to disinherit her seemingly-simpleton brother, Ellard Simms (James Lynch).
Charlie, desperate not to give up his charade, quickly learns not to respond to anything being said in front of him — even when he’s bullied by the likes of Owen Musser (Michael McFadden), a self-righteous official who wants to condemn Betty Meeks’ lodge for his own darker purposes.
And as they say, hijinks ensue, fueled by the chasm between our penchant to fear what (and who) we don’t know and our infallible tendency (thank goodness!) toward compassion and love. Given our times, this play makes the case for compassion — toward others and ourselves — which is a refreshing lesson, indeed.
“The Foreigner” is the 10th season closer for Phoenix Theater which deserves kudos for its high production values, from the inviting set, fun costuming (especially Owen’s ‘what to wear to a KKK meeting outfit) to the top-notch acting and direction.
The cast is composed of equally strong actors, each with their own set of charms. Boyd Morrison (actor by night, New York Times best-selling author and former engineer by day) rendered his version of Charlie with boyish charm. While robbed of words, Morrison’s emotive facial expressions were nothing short of hilarious and communicated everything the audience needed to know without being over-the-top. His physical humor in the second act, as he tries to teach his new friends his ‘native (made-up) tongue’ was hilarious.
|Owen (Michael McFadden) and Charlie (Boyd Morrison)|
Michael McFadden as Owen played the perfect bully — mean as heck, until he gets his comeuppance which turns him into a coward. Debra Rich as Catherine was pitch-perfect in her part as a former deb who isn’t as dense as she thought, and Melanie Calderwood gave an endearing comedic portrayal of an older woman looking for a family to love. James Lynch was poignant as Ellard, who has lived down to expectations his whole life — until someone sees him for the sweetheart he really is. David Bailey as Catherine’s fiancé makes you want to stand up and shout — “Don’t marry the creep.” Phillip Keiman as Froggy handled his part winningly and left this member of the audience wishing that he had more time on stage.
Shout-outs also go to director Eric Lewis, who managed the laughter-inducing moments (there were many), with a skilled hand so that lines weren’t drowned out by audience guffaws. There’s a lot happening on stage — and it was deftly handled.
|Ellard Simms (James Lynch) and Charles (Boyd Morrison)|
The playwright, who sadly died too young, also deserves words of praise. Like the most skillful horticulturalist, Shue planted personality quirks, lines of dialogue, and plot points in exactly the right place within the dramatic structure of the play and brought them into bloom at exactly the right time. Especially enjoyable was Charlie Baker’s background as a science fiction editor, which he put to good use at the story’s climax making this play a true garden of comedic delights.
Having such high-quality, affordable theater in our own backyard is truly a gift. I haven’t laughed so much for way too long. Please, do yourself a favor — go see “The Foreigner.”
Show dates: May 25-June 17, 2018
Show times: Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, Sunday matinees at 2pm
Location: The Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Avenue, Edmonds, WA 98020
For tickets or information: online or by phone at 206-533-2000
There is plenty of free parking and ADA accessible access around the back of the building. Please call if you will need to use the back entrance or to have ADA seats reserved.
*Go in haste; speed