Saturday, February 01, 2014

Review: Well done The Foreigner at Village is a familiar farce

Erik Gratton, Angela DiMarco, Jonathan Crimeni in The Foreigner (Tracy Martin)

The Foreigner
Village Theatre
Issaquah through March 2
Everett: March 7-30

The Foreigner by Larry Shue is a tight, almost perfectly written farce: every little detail introduced into the plot is used later and is a clue to the unfolding mystery. Case in point, at the beginning of the play, we find out that a young man who is developmentally disabled is said to take one bite out of an apple and then leave the apple behind, and deny that he’s even done it. The audience thinks it’s quirky character development, until we later find out who has been leaving the apples and why.

There are half a dozen tiny moments like that in the script and as you begin to see them unfold, your interest in what you already saw and what it might mean later deepens. An old bromide, attributed to Anton Chekhov the playwright, is that if you put a gun in your play, it better get shot later on. In The Foreigner, all the “guns” get shot. You can see for yourself at the Village Theatre with their well done production.

Celebrated musical writer, Brian Yorkey, returns to his old home at Village Theatre to direct this play, their annual non-musical production. He directs a solid cast of seven who sometimes make their numbers look larger (through adept costuming).

The basic ingredients start with a despondent Brit (Erik Gratton) being dragged to rural Georgia by his army buddy, Froggy (Patrick Phillips), to get cheered up while his buddy does some military drills there. But he is so shy and afraid of people that Froggy, spur of the moment, tells the proprietess, Betty (Sharva Maynard), that Charlie doesn’t speak a word of English, hoping to ensure that everyone will leave Charlie alone. Once Charlie is thought not to understand, secrets start pouring out around him and he finds a facility inside himself to begin to enjoy life.

The plot developments are a bit absurd, and Charlie is supposed to find a way to rescue everyone, but it’s a romp with great fun moments. There is a wonderful bit where Charlie is “taught” English by the young disabled boy Ellard (Anthony Lee Phillips) that is a crowd-pleaser. Ellard’s sister, Catherine (Angela DiMarco), is being duped by her fiancĂ©e (Jonathan Crimeni) and a nasty side-kick (Eric Ray Anderson who starts off nibbling the furniture and ends up biting big chunks of it in a hysterical bad-guy turn).

Technical support here is luscious, as usual, with a great thunderstorm on a unit set depicting an old lodge (by Matthew Smucker), essential sound work from Brent Warwick to create the outdoor noises, intricate lighting from Tom Sturge, and fun costuming from Melanie Burgess. Charlie’s get up, in particular, helps set a complete tone for his character.

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