No matter how many times I see Larry Shue's comedy THE FOREIGNER, it always makes me laugh. The production at Vermont Stage is no exception. The play centers around an Englishman, Charlie, the foreigner of the title, who is passed off to the residents of a Georgia fishing camp by his friend Froggy as a foreigner who speaks no English - a ploy to cover Charlie's shyness.
THE FOREIGNER is a play about communication and the lack of it. It examines the human impulse to confide fully only in someone who doesn't understand a word and also the tendency to understand only what you think you hear. There are also some serious moments involving prejudice and politico-religious fanaticism that resonate strongly in today's world, but at bottom it's a very funny play. It's filled with such exchanges as, "You remind me of Malaysia." "Oh - who's she?"
John Paul Devlin's set is very atmospheric and makes the most of the playing space. John B. Forbes has done a nice job with the lighting design. The sound, operated by Colin Fletcher, is excellent. Jenny Fulton's costumes are also good, particularly those for Catherine.
The cast, as I've come to expect at Vermont Stage, is strong and very balanced. Paul Ugalde is fine as the benevolent Froggy and he handles the dialect well. As Reverend David, Lane Gibson Jr. gives a well-rounded and believable performance in a difficult role. He even finds some sympathetic moments for the character. Lili Gamache does a nice job of portraying the naiveté and warmth of Betty Meeks, the camp's owner.
As Catherine, Haley Rice is very good and allows her character to grow from a rather surly ex-deb into a complete and likable young woman. As her learning disabled brother Ellard, Mike Mosey creates a believable character that is both touching and funny. I especially liked his enthusiasm for teaching Charlie English.
Wayne Tetrick is terrific as Owen the redneck Klan member. He's made Owen very real without even a hint of stereotype. He's a good foil in the comic scenes, and is able to turn the corner in the serious moments and project a real sense of menace.
Andrew Sellon is hilarious as the foreigner Charlie. His remarkable eyes speak volumes. Mr. Sellon's comic timing is great and he's especially funny in the breakfast scene, telling a story in his native language and conduction a language lesson. Not only that, we see Charlie grow and flower as a human being.
Director Mark Nash has helped his actors make their characters three dimensional and believable, while retaining all of the play's humor. He's also handled the three-quarter round staging so well that there's not really a bad seat in this intimate house.
The subject matter of THE FOREIGNER may give you a few interesting after-thoughts, but what you'll do while watching it is laugh and keep laughing.
On a scale of one to five the Vermont Stage production of THE FOREIGNER gets four and three-fourths ferry boats. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.