Language of Laughter 

The Foreigner speaks to the heart

If a play can be likened to a dining experience, The Foreigner has all the right ingredients of a comforting, home-cooked Southern meal. Rarely is the talent of an entire cast so hearty and delectable that I come out of a show feeling completely fulfilled. The entertainment I found on stage at UCCS TheatreWorks Saturday night was a small, yet still comforting, "antidote" in light of a heavy-hearted week.

The Foreigner is pure family entertainment that, like its main character, proves to be anything but dull and boring. We are seated on the edge of a quaint living room in a Georgia fishing resort. Froggy and Charlie enter the warm, homey charm of the lodge from the trenches of a cold thunderstorm. Froggy, a bomb consultant for the military, has pulled his stuffy, depressed friend, Charlie Baker, from his sick wife's hospital bedside for a weekend away in the States. But Charlie, a boring proofreader from London, is more than a bit hesitant to feel at ease in the foreign Georgia inn.

Charlie is squeamish, he's scared, and -- darn it -- he just doesn't want to have to talk to anybody for the entire three days he's there. Froggy cooks up an idea to tell the innkeeper, Betty, that Charlie is a foreigner who can't speak a word of English -- hence, some great comedic material based in misunderstandings.

Through a series of miscalculated events, Charlie succeeds in his initial fantasy to acquire a personality, unintentionally arousing laughter, respect and even anger from his new lodge-mates. But can he also save the innkeeper from losing her inn, save the ex-debutante from a doomed marriage, and help reveal the genius in a dimwitted boy?

Soon Charlie is the center of attention in his new role as a foreigner, but what does he do when the attention goes sour by two evil men plotting for white supremacist power and the other characters' demise?

The play is a sheer pleasure largely due to an extremely talented cast, where no actor plays a "bit part." Hela Robran as Betty is a treat, playing the endearing old woman with an innocent, joyous fervor. She has an authentic welcoming Southern air as warm as fresh-baked buttered biscuits. Danny Bristol plays Ellard with an open heart, embracing the role as a good-natured, fun-loving, sincerely dimwitted boy. The performance is not only touching, but a paradoxical act of genius.

Mark Hennessy as the preacher David gives a slyly malicious performance as the snake hiding behind the mask of righteousness. But some of the most fun is in listening to those grisly lines rumbling from the deep hillbilly bowels of the bawdy Owen Musser, played by Michael Preston. He's the rude, lewd hick we all love to hate. Yee-haw!

Natalie Palan as Catherine not only knows how to pour on the ambrosia as a sweet, ex-debutante wife-to-be, but dishes out enough sass to go along with it. Julian Bucknall always takes maximum advantage of a moment on stage as Froggy, who helps save the day.

Of course, all the actors shine brighter when they mix, like a catalyst, with the ingenuous talent of David Wild as the unexpected hero, Charlie Baker. Wild, whose smile peels across his face as smooth and quickly as a hot knife through buttah, is an actor who bides his time, patient to create the magic in every next moment on stage.

Director Christopher Lowell has cultivated a harvest of laughter from the abundant comedic opportunities planted in an intelligent, and soon to be classic, script by Larry Shue. In fact, Lowell's craft is so evident, a member in last Saturday night's audience shouted out for a well-deserved second round of applause for the director.


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