At Village, a fresh take on ‘The Foreigner’
A review of the Village Theatre production of Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner,” about a man who pretends to be a non-English speaker in the fruitless search for some privacy.
Special to The Seattle Times
By Larry Shue. Through March 2 at Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah (425-392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org). Note: Plays March 7-30 at Everett Performing Arts Center.
It’s no wonder the late writer-actor Larry Shue’s plays are so popular. He creates outrageous situations and supports them with very funny dialogue. Seattle has had other recent revivals of his play “The Foreigner,” but Village Theatre’s current production directed by Brian Yorkey is fresh, and presents a cast that knows how to work a script for its laughs.
This is farce with few slamming doors but plenty of absurdity and exaggeration.
The title character is a mousy, socially inept Englishman stuck in a rustic Georgia fishing lodge. There, he pretends he can’t speak English. It’s his misguided effort to be left alone, but just the opposite happens.
First he’s surrounded by a bunch of well-meaning hicks who treat him like royalty and can’t do enough to “help” him. Then come the nefarious Ku Klux Klan members, Southern bigots who lie, defraud, and harm while spouting pieties and hateful language denigrating all but white Christian Americans.
Rubber-faced Erik Gratton as the foreigner overhears secrets, resolves problems, gives joy to those deserving, and outsmarts the bigots. He does it all with outlandish pantomime and bizarre sounds meant to masquerade as his foreign language.
The characters are a bit too stereotypical, but they are well-performed. You can almost smell evil when Eric Ray Anderson, as intolerant Owen, spits hateful diatribes. With his protruding belly, dirty work clothes and superfluous facial hair, he’s nasty inside and out. Anthony Lee Phillips, as sweet but dense Ellard, makes a heartwarming and believable transition from dunce to language teacher to hero.
Sharva Maynard as Betty, the lodge owner, manages to be the epitome of kindness even though she’s a well-meaning fool. And the other cast members are just as good in their roles.
Nancy Worssam: firstname.lastname@example.org