Monday Jun 13 2016
Sutter Street Theatre’s “The Foreigner” offers laughs and emotion
By: Gerry Camp
Charlie Baker (Tim Yancey), a depressed sci-fi proofreader with zero self esteem–he describes himself as “profoundly boring”—is “The Foreigner” in Larry Shue’s multiple award-winning comedy, Sutter Street Theatre’s latest gift to Folsom.His wife cheats on him (he mention 23 lovers) and may be dying. His buddy Froggy LeSueur (Aurelio Martinez, a newcomer at Sutter Street with a true comic flair) decides he needs a vacation and deposits him in a run-down Georgia hunting lodge. Charlie says he is too shy and upset to speak to anyone, so Froggy tells his friend Betty, the owner of the lodge (Eileen Beaver), that Charlie is a foreigner and speaks no English.
“This is a play for theatre-lovers who love over-the-top comedy, but also, for those who like a play with real feeling beneath the farce, this is a must!”
Soon the other guests at the lodge are discussing their most intimate secrets in front of Charlie, and he learns that Catherine (Vanessa Voetsch) is pregnant and her fiancé, the not so pious Rev. David Marshall Lee (John Hopkins) is marrying her for her money and plans, with his KKK buddy Owen Musser (Jason Titus) to have the lodge condemned so they can make it over into the headquarters for the coming “invisible empire.”
Catherine’s apparently not-too-bright brother Ellard (a hilarious Kevin Judson) sets out to teach Charlie his version of English, making “fork,” for example, a three-syllable word: “fow-war-ka”, etc. Charlie “learns” rapidly, his learning accompanied by hilarious mimicry, pantomime, and dancing. In Act 2 Charlie’s “native” language begins to emerge, a sort of Russian/Polish gobbledygook, and soon Charlie is entertaining by enacting stories, which the others seem almost to understand, and even teaching his language to his listeners.Of course Charlie knows all the plotting, and he and Ellard, who is not as dim as he first appeared, concoct a plan to foil the evildoers.
Director Blake Flores milks this comic setup for non-stop laughs, and the competent cast keep them coming. In addition to Judson, who seems to be having huge fun playing the seeming simpleton who ends up reading Shakespeare, I was especially entertained by Eileen Beaver as Betty, who exudes kindness through the thickest Georgia accent imaginable and knows Charlie will understand her if she just shouts loud enough.
The clear star of the show, as he must be, is Tim Yancey as Charlie. With very few (English) lines, Yancey shows Charlie’s growth as a person—he tells Froggie he grew a personality—by becoming someone else. So timid at the beginning he could not finish his own sentences, he is, at the end, a hero who can terrorize the foulest villain imaginable (Titus’s Owen) into running in fear from the house. I’ve seen Yancey in two other totally different roles, both brilliantly played, and he is clearly one of the finest actors in this area. Watching what he does with his face and his body is worth the price of the ticket.
This is a play for theatre-lovers who love over-the-top comedy, but also, for those who like a play with real feeling beneath the farce, this is a must!