A perpetually popular regional theater mainstay since its Off-Broadway debut in 1984, Larry Shue’s The Foreigner is a farce without a sense of urgency, and the glacial pace doesn’t do the broad comedy any favors. Nevertheless, it can be an amusing trifle in the right hands, and Village Theatre’s production runs like a well-oiled machine. How much you’ll laugh depends on your affinity for silly voices and redneck stereotype humor.
Erik Gratton does solid work as Charlie Baker, a frequent cuckold and meek proofreader who’s convinced by his buddy, Army explosives tech Froggy (Patrick Phillips), to take a holiday away from his adulterous wife in a remote Georgia fishing lodge. Trouble is, Charlie isn’t too keen on talking to strangers, so Froggy tells kindly innkeeper Betty (Sharva Maynard) that Charlie is a foreigner who can’t speak a word of English. The thing is, people tend to reveal themselves around someone they think can’t understand them.
As Betty tries to make herself understood by shouting in his ear, and secrets emerge from the lips of ex-debutante Catherine (Angela DiMarco), her fiancé, reverend David (Jonathan Crimeni), and beer-gutted local Owen (Eric Ray Anderson), Charlie remains quiet, and Gratton’s mounting, wordless panic is supremely entertaining.
While Act One drags, overemphasizing to a painfully obvious degree a pair of characters’ nefarious plans, Act Two kicks into more absurd, slightly funnier territory as Catherine’s dimwitted brother Ellard (Anthony Lee Phillips) begins to teach Charlie English, and no one thinks to question how quickly he’s progressing. There’s some amusing physical and verbal comedy here, and Gratton fully embraces the silliness. It’s too bad the philosophy of The Foreigner seems to be, “If it was funny once, it must be funny three or four times.” Repeated bits dull the effect, making for an experience more wearying than diverting.
Brian Yorkey returns to Village Theatre to direct, and he whips up about as snappy a show as the material allows for. It’s too bad Phillips has to be offstage so much, as his scenery-chewing Froggy helps push the dialogue over the top where it ought to be. Matthew Smucker’s scenic design creates an appealing kitsch overload, cramming the walls with trophies and picture frames, and Melanie Burgess’s costumes establish a strong sense of time and place, particularly in Catherine’s neon-chic ’80s wear.
The Foreigner is on stage now at Village Theatre’s Issaquah location through March 2 before moving to Everett for a run through March 30. Tickets are available for purchase online.Powered by Sidelines