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THEATER REVIEW: “The Foreigner”

Droopy, pathologically shy Charlie Baker (Geno Carr) is practically dragged into a rural Georgia hunting lodge by loquacious friend, S/Sgt. “Froggy” Lesueur (Cris O’Bryon). Charlie sinks into a chair to contemplate his unsatisfying life.

Charlie’s wife Mary is in the hospital, possibly dying, but has urged him to take Froggy up on his offer to spend a few days in the lodge.

Charlie knows better: he tells Froggy “Mary doesn’t like me very much. She simply finds me shatteringly, profoundly boring.” But Froggy, with his fatigues and British accent, is sure the next few days will cheer his friend up.

The idea of having to communicate with a bunch of strangers in the lodge terrifies Charlie to the extent that Froggy concocts a plan: he’ll tell lodge owner Betty Meeks (Myra McWethy) that Charlie is a foreigner who does not speak English and to instruct guests not to speak to him. Betty, it turns out, is a sweet old soul with thwarted dreams of travel, and is thrilled to have an actual “foreigner” at her lodge.

Charlie will overhear tense conversations between young, pretty (and wealthy) Catherine Simms (Nancy Snow Carr) and her fiance, Rev. David Marshall Lee (Brent Schindele). He’ll also learn about devious proceedings by multi-tattooed Owen Musser (Stacey Allen) and a few others relative to ownership of the lodge.

He’ll make friends with Catherine’s slow-on-the-draw younger brother Ellard (Kevin Hafso-Koppman), who will take on the job of teaching Charlie some English.

A silly plot? You bet. But haven’t you ever wanted to listen in on conversations when nobody knows you’re there? And be treated as something like royalty to boot?

Lamb’s Players does a fine job with Larry Shue’s 1984 “The Foreigner”. Director Kerry Meads has a fine cast, headed by Carr’s timorous-turned-terrific Charlie, who can’t be accused of porking it up. O’Bryon’s expansive Froggy is a fine foil for his bashful buddy.

Musser’s Owen, the most unsavory character, can be funny but he’s mostly downright scary.

Hafso-Koppman’s Ellard is a hoot, especially in the mirror-image breakfast scene and when he teaches Charlie’s “language” to the assembled guests.

Production values are high. The cast keeps the action moving on Mike Buckley’s homey set (chintz abounds), with walls full of knickknacks, quilt work and trophies of some sort. Costumes, lighting and sound are handled ably by Jemima Dutra and Juliet Czoka, Nathan Peirson and Jon Lorenz, respectively.

It’s easy to write off “The Foreigner” as preposterous, even (as my companion put it) embarrassingly bad comedy peopled with stereotypes. In fact, critics have been doing just that for years. But that didn’t keep it from a two-year off-Broadway run and two Obie awards, nor from successful runs around the country since.

Nobody will confuse it with sophisticated comedy, but it’s difficult not to be amused by Charlie’s gradual transformation from fearful nebbish to colorful raconteur – in a “foreign” language, yet – and Ellard’s move toward self-confidence as Charlie’s teacher. And there are gentle messages about tolerance and respect.

And the bottom line is that audiences laugh at this show.

The details

“The Foreigner” plays through March 9 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado.

Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.