The Hale Theatre Centre has done it again! Larry Shue's extremely popular comedy The Foreigner opened Friday night in a delightful, exceptionally well-acted production, beautifully directed by multi-AriZoni Award winning director Lori Towne. The Foreigner will run through October 16 and should be added to your must-see play list.
Four time AriZoni Award winner Lori Towne (and nominee for a 2010 AriZoni Award for her staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd), returns to Hale where she directed last season's very popular production of James Sherman's Beau Jest. The superb cast includes Eric Brekke as Charlie Baker, Robert Holt as Sergeant Froggy LeSueur, Rob Stuart as the Rev. David Lee Marshall, Barbara McGrath as Betty Meeks, Scott McGee as Owen, Mallory Adams as Catherine Simms and Skyler Bean as Ellard Simms.
The Foreigner is beautifully and comfortably set by Hale Artistic Director David Dietlein. The very talented Pam Oborn designed the era appropriate costumes.
When The Examiner asked what Ms. Towne was planning for The Foreigner, she replied, "It's a very entertaining play that mixes a lot of realism with very funny comedy. We have actors that...are really excited about taking on the challenge of bringing together a story that includes the KKK, something new and different for the Hale Theatre. It's a little more cutting edge than the other plays they produce. The Foreigner is such a wonderful play and we are trying to make it appeal to all ages and family-oriented as well." Towne added, "We are hoping that some people will not take offense on how dramatically the KKK is represented. Hopefully, the play will inspire people to think and be more aware of these social circumstances."
The Hale Theatre's cast could not be better. Eric Brekke as Charlie Baker (the foreigner of the title) is a shy, gentle giant of a man trying to desperately avoid contact and keep his quiet composure. His BFF Froggy LeSueur, played by an affable and always agreeable Robert Holt, tells his friend, innkeeper Betty Meeks, that Charlie speaks no English and wishes to be left alone. Froggy's plan backfires as the surreptitious Charlie becomes more and more hilariously involved with the problems facing his surrounding characters. Barbara McGrath is Betty Meeks, delightfully warm and endearing as she shouts her every word at the supposedly clueless Charlie, hoping that he will understand her. Skyler Bean is Ellard Simms, the sweet, put upon, dim witted handyman. Charlie instantly befriends Ellard and the camaraderie generated by Brekke and Bean is simply magical.
Rob Stuart as the Rev. David Lee Marshall, and Mallory Adams as Catherine Simms are no less wonderful but Scott McGee as the despicably mean-spirited, vile, villainous Owen gives the best performance of the night. His Owen is pure white trash, smug, self-important and truly stupid.
The Foreigner opened on November 1, 1984 at New York City's Astor Place Theatre, where it ran for 686 performances. It won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. Author Larry Shue tragically died in a plane crash the following year, not living to see the continued popularity of The Foreigner.
Don't expect an easy evening of robust comedy here. Evil abounds amidst this seemingly innocent world. Shue's raucous humor is laced with a daring subplot that is both thought provoking and intellectually disturbing.
The play explodes with delicious, satirical humor when exposing its dark underbelly. The Foreigner is possibly more relevant today than when it was written some twenty-five years ago. The play is not afraid to show a redneck, white trash sub-culture that is more interested in flexing its muscle power than in flexing its brain power. Shue proves that ignorance can truly be bliss, indeed, blissfully and shockingly funny.
Hale Centre Theatre 50 West Page Ave, Gilbert 85233