THE FOREIGNERby Larry Shue
Granbury Theatre Company
Director – Andrew R. Looney
Set Designer – Andrew Barrus
Light Designer – Andrew Barrus
Costumer – Stacey Greenawalt King
CAST as of the reviewed performance:
Betty Meeks – Donna Jones
Froggy LeSeur – Andrew R. Looney
Catherine Simms – Angela Burkey
Charlie Baker – Robert G. Shores
Ellard Simms – Adam Livingston
Owen Musser – Michael Lain
David Lee – Andrew Barrus
Reviewed Performance: 5/11/2013
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Foreigner journeys through the lives of a widow who runs a hunting lodge, her two visitors, a former debutante and her brother, and an evangelist and his sidekick. The show takes place in the early 1980s and begins when two British men arrive at the lodge during a thunderstorm. Charlie is shy and dealing with issues at home and prefers not to speak to anyone so Froggy develops a ruse to make the locals believe Charlie doesn’t speak English, which he initially is reluctant to pursue. The ensuing interactions between Charlie and the locals provide the comedic backdrop for the mostly lighthearted plot.
The set, designed by Andrew Barrus, was very green, but appropriate to a hunting lodge of that time period. The walls are adorned with various sporting equipment and a hutch is stocked with period stoneware. The somewhat mismatched décor was as would be expected from the often-distracted owner of the lodge, including throw pillows and Afghans strewn about the sofa.
Due to the fact that the lightning occurred inside the living room, instead of outside of the window which was visible at the back of the set, lighting and sound design, also by Barrus, was sometimes overbearing during the lightning and thunderstorm scenes. The spotlight center stage was white and cold, which did not generate a home-like feel.
Costumer Stacey Greenawalt King assembled clothing appropriate to the time period, such as tights and brightly-colored tops and skirts for Catherine, khakis and button down shirts for David, and modest blue-buttoned shirt and navy slacks for Charlie. Charlie also wore a red bow tie at the beginning of the show but as his character transitioned the bowtie was left behind. The uniform worn by Froggy, which had a digital camouflage pattern that was not in existence at the time, was the only out-of-period costume, but this is forgivable as the effect is understood. One confusing feature of Froggy’s attire was after a scene late in the second act where he wore pajama pants from the knee down. It is possible this was an error in changing costumes from another scene, however, as no mention was made of this interesting fashion choice. One of my favorite costuming choices was using a black, plastic trash bag for an improvised raincoat on the character of Owen. This small detail was appropriate for that particular character on several levels.
The casting choices made for a dynamic, effective team of actors whose areas of expertise complemented each other well. Even during intermission the audience was engaged, sharing their favorite quotes from the first act and happily predicting what was to come in the second half.
Andrew R. Looney’s portrayal of British Army officer, Froggy, was excellent. Looney’s depiction was complete, right down to the accent he used to portray the character. The accent was correct throughout the show, including to the appropriate dialect, and this created a character that was convincing and natural. Looney’s comedic timing was instrumental for several laughs of the evening and his interactions with Robert G. Shores, who played Charlie, worked well.
The part of Charlie, the pretend foreigner, was deftly delivered by Shores. Facial expressions were important to this role, especially during the first half when lines were few. Shores managed to convey Charlie’s fear and anxiety well. Often Shores was called upon to deliver lines, including a storytelling piece, in a “foreign” language which sounded to be a combination of German, Russian, and Klingon, and Shores continued to convey meaning despite the nonsensical gab. As the ruse progressed, Shores did a good job of transitioning from shy and timid to a more confident man just beginning to live life. One of my favorite scenes in the show was in combination with Adam Livingston in the role of Ellard, whilst sitting at the dinner table performing a mirror routine.
Livingston, who delivered several of the highlight moments of the evening, and the most talked about character during intermission, did a superb job of portraying Ellard, the simple-minded, thoughtful younger brother of Catherine. Even his expressions told volumes about the character and his delivery while teaching Charlie words such as fork (pronounced “fo-work”), and lamp (“ends with ump”) generated ample guffaws from the audience. It could be said that the script supported this effort which it did but Livingston’s interpretation of the character was exactly as it needed to be.
Donna Jones in the role of Betty often searched for her lines, but this worked for the character who was often distracted. Jones literally took command of the stage as her character moved quickly through the entire set, delivering punch lines and confused looks at the appropriate times. Jones never faltered in her depiction of the widow.
Catherine’s line, “I just don’t’ think I’m cut out to be a decent person”, epitomized the emotional torment Angela Burkey conveyed in her portrayal of the former debutante who is engaged to the local evangelist. Burkey accurately transitioned from cheerful to despondent to strong guardian throughout her performance. Her use of body language well-conveyed her growing feelings for Charlie as the show progressed.
In the role of David, Andrew Barrus was confident. His performance never seemed like one, it was as if Barrus truly was the smooth-talking, manipulative man he portrayed.
Michael Lain’s Owen was appropriately despicable. Lain was convincingly menacing and bullying, and when the surprise motives behind Owen and David’s actions became clear, it wasn’t so surprising that this character would be involved. As he sauntered across the stage covered in a trash bag, Lain reeked of confidence and control, although in later scenes he delivered an air of fear and anxiety just as expertly.
The show as a whole is well worth seeing. The humorous escape it provides will be the perfect end to a day of shopping and sightseeing. I highly suggest pampering yourself with a weekend trip to Granbury to enjoy this production!
Granbury Theatre Company
110 North Crockett Street, Granbury, Texas
Plays through June 1st
Shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday matinee at 3:30 pm.
Tickets are $20.00, $17.00 seniors and students, and $15.00 children 12 and under and groups of 10 or more.
For more information, visit www.granburytheatrecompany.org.
Tickets may be purchased online, by calling the box office at 817-579-0952 or at the door, if available.