From the early moments of The Foreigner at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre it is evident that the audience is going to be flooded with slapstick humor, wild antics and outrageous plot twists. The only way to describe what occurs on stage is hilarious, rip-roaring funny, slap your knee and laugh till you cry humor that keeps the audience roaring with laughter. The cast had to pause momentarily more than once because the laughter was so loud the next spoken line would not have been heard.
The Foreigner by Larry Shue opened on Friday night October 18 at the Spencer Theatre at the UMKC campus. This work by Shue overpowers his previous work of The Nerd. Jerry Genochio returned to the KC Rep to direct this highly acclaimed comedy. He put together a cast that if they were a shoe they would be a perfect fit. “We had a budget for three New York actors” Genochio said, “but after the local auditions we knew we didn’t have to look any further.”
Charlie is the foreigner from England who is void of a personality or any charisma when he arrives at the Meeks Lodge in Georgia. He is so lacking of either that his dying wife requested he come to America. Martin Buchanan plays Charlie and is astonishing as he brings the character to life. His facial expressions and ornate body language keep the audience howling with laughter. The other people at the lodge are told that Charlie speaks little or no English and that they should avoid talking to him. As the play develops Charlie tells a tale in his made-up gibberish language of his made-up homeland. Coupled with the outrageous physical actions this is one of the funniest scenes ever produced in Kansas City.
Rusty Sneary plays Froggy the military man who brings Charlie to the lodge. Sneary does a very good in the supporting role and heightens Charlie’s story telling with the facial expressions he produces as Charlie entertains the lodge residents.
Ellard is played by Kyle Hatley the Associate Artistic Director at the Rep. Ellard is the mentally challenged brother who befriends Charlie. Hatley is marvelous in his actions and comedic timing. It is hard to decide who to watch when both he and Buchanan are on stage.
The good (or is he so good) Reverend David is played by one of the best actors in Kansas City, Charles Fugate. His character is one of the most dramatic of the production. He delivers his comedic lines well but when he goes into a rage it is with a grand dramatic flair.
Gary Neal Johnson is a familiar face around the KC Rep. Johnson plays Owen, the evil and conniving government official who is after the lodge. Johnson pulls off the role with confidence as he appears terrified at one moment and later threatens the others with a knife.
Emily Shackelford plays the beautiful debutante Catherine. Catherine is pregnant with the reverend’s child and is the sister of Ellard. She also has control over the family fortune since the death of her father. With this performance Shackelford shows why she should be considered at the top of the list of actresses in Kansas City. She showed she has great timing, delivering her lines with ease and poise.
The other female in the play is the owner of the lodge, Betty. Kathleen Warfel was selected for the part and produced one of the most memorable characters. Watching Warfel was like looking through a peep hole into a room, she brought the character to life as if she really was Betty.
The Foreigner continues at the Spencer Theatre through November 3.