Little Theatre of Alexandria The ForeignerBy Jose Pineda • Sep 15th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria Theater, Alexandria, VA
Through October 3rd
2:30, with one intermission
Reviewed September 13th, 2009
If you could tell someone your deepest secrets because they couldn’t understand a word you were saying, would you? The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner, was a funny play with a cast of memorable characters, a superb set, and a knack for making the audience fall about.
The Foreigner centers around Englishman Charlie Baker (played by Matthew Hartman) and his unusual, three-day lodging stay at Betty Meeks’ (played by Mollie Wise) Georgia fishing cabin. Charlie suffers from a social anxiety disorder and doesn’t want to speak with strangers while at the lodge. His friend, and military sergeant, Froggy LeSueur (played by John McCracken), devises a ridiculous plan to get Charlie peace and quiet. He tells Mrs. Meeks that Charlie is from an exotic, foreign country, speaks no English, and must not be spoken to. Rather than just ignore Charlie; the zany Betty Meeks makes an effort to communicate with the strange fellow (though it is done with unconventional hollering, or rather, screaming), the half-wit benefactor Ellard Simms (played by Nathan Tatro) gives him English lessons, and the ex-debutant Catherine Simms (played by Nicole Goeden) tells the “foreigner” all of her deep, dark secrets. After unwillingly eavesdropping on conversations between Owen Musser, a local property inspector, (played by David James) and silver-tongued Reverend David Marshall Lee (played by Michael Reid), Charlie is caught into ridiculous situations that brings out the charm and hilarity of the play.
In the show, three distinct accents were used; the traditional British accent, the Georgian/Southern American accent, and an Eastern European-sounding accent. Matthew Hartman nailed all three with great accuracy. Reprising his role as Charlie Baker, he was just phenomenal. He effectively caught the personality differences between shy Englishman Charlie Baker and jocular foreigner “Cha-A-Lee”, from the way they moved to the way they spoke. Ironically named, the character of Betty Meeks was anything but meek, and Mollie Wise knew exactly how to portray her character successfully. She used elastic physicality and remarkable comedic timing to create a character both uproarious and believable. Wise was sure to nail every clever remark, and skillfully delivered great comedy.
A good supporting cast is essential to any show, and Nathan Tatro’s enthusiasm and Nicole Goeden’s believability as siblings Ellard and Catherine Simms added to the quality of the play. Although Goeden stood at times very stiffly, her facial expressions were spot on. She conjured up enough bitchiness and sass to pull off a notable performance. Another actor worthy of note was John McCracken. He created a flawless British accent that dripped of comedic winsomeness.
Though the acting was a great highlight of the show, the most remarkable aspect was by far the set design. Set designer Erin Cumbo‘s set included; a large fireplace, a dining room, a living room, a two-flight row of stairs, and five different levels of acting space. Combined with the lighting design of Franklin Coleman, the show looked gorgeous.
Overall, the cast and crew successfully put on a show that was both charming and inspiring, and the cast should be praised for a job well done. The show might be called The Foreigner, but it is evident that a marvelous afternoon of theater is no foreign thing at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Performances run from Wednesdays to Saturdays evenings at 8 pm, and on Sunday afternoons at 3 pm until October 3, 2009. Contact the box office at 703-683-0496 to reserve tickets.
The idea for The Foreigner came to playwright Larry Shue while he was studying with a theater company in Japan. Shue discovered that the Japanese would tolerate even his most bizarre behavior (due to the fact that he was unaware of Japanese social customs), dismissing his inappropriate actions as the conduct of an outsider.
The first production of the play at the Milwaukee repertory theater in 1983 was a huge success. When the play moved off-Broadway in 1984, the show struggled to survive until a Texas millionaire helped it out financially. It then went on to win two prestigious off-Broadway awards: the 1985 New York Obie and the Outer Circle Critics Award. The Foreigner has been successfully produced time after time since it was irst performed in the 1980s. Critics first tore the show apart because they felt it was written to merely amuse, not to drive home a heavy message. However, audiences have loved it, because they have looked deeper and found the messages of tolerance and self-awareness that Larry Shue has so deftly cloaked with wacky humor and some heart-warming transformations. The play not only overcame the negative reviews; it played 685 performances.
The Foreigner has become a staple of community theater – a guaranteed crowd please that continue to entertain cheering, laughing audiences. It is a comic classic that entertains you, gives you a lift and a laugh, and sends you home happy. The cast and crew sincerely hope you enjoy our production of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner.
– Frank Pasqualino
- “Froggy” LeSueur: John McCracken
- Charlie Baker: Matthew Hartman
- Betty Meeks: Mollie Wise
- Rev. David Marshall Lee: Michael Reid
- Catherine Simms: Nicole Goeden
- Owen Musser: David James
- Ellard Simms: Nathan Tatro
- Klansmen/Townspeople: George Alberts, Michele Bell, Angela Bellis, Charle Dragonette, Zachary Frank, Jim Hutzler, J.J. Stinson, Emma Vroom
- Producers: Rachel Alberts and Michele Bell
- Director: Frank Pasaqualino
- Assistant Producer: Annie Vroom
- Stage Managers: Kira Simon and Lauren Miller
- Assistant Stage Manager: Jim Hutzler
- Set Designer – Erin Cumbo
- Set Construction: Chris Feldmann
- Assisted by: George Alberts, John Beahler, Lloyd Bittinger, Gail Cafardi, Jim Hutzler, Bob King, Jeff Nesmeyer, Dan Remmers, Sasha Rousseau, Jack Schaeffer, Bob Staiman, Peter Sudkamp. Jerry Wolf
- Set Painting: Erin Cumbo
- Assisted by: Cassie Duvall, Aditi Kale
- Costume Design: Jean Schilchting and Kit Sibley
- Wardrobe: Margaret Snow
- Assisted by: Jamie Blake, Rebecca Johnson, Annie Vroom, Nicole Zuchetto
- Properties: Bobbie Herbst and Donna Reynolds
- Assisted by: Carol Hutchinson, Rebecca Johnson, Leslie Reed, Jayn Rife, Margaret Snow, Nicole Zuchetto
- Set Dressing: Jeffery Stevenson
- Sound Design: David Correia
- Assisted by: Casey Brusnahan, Jim Carmalt, Anna Hawkins, Bill Rinehuls, Janice Rivera
- Lighting Design: Franklin Coleman
- Master Electrician: Eileen Doherty
- Assisted by: Casey Brusnaha, Pat Durako, Heather Franklin, Pam Leonowich, Arie McSherry, Mike O’Connor, Richard Schwab, J.J. Stinson, Carrie Vernon
- Makeup and Hair Design: Susan Braun
- Rigging: Russell Wyland
- Audition Table: Robin Parker, Margaret Snow, Annie Vroom, Bobbie Herbst
- Photographer: Shane Canfield
- Double Tech Dinner: Michele Bell and Bob Bell
- Opening Night Party: Jim Carmalt
- Assisted by: Pat Bradford, Shirley Carmalt
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