Crazy characters, a backwoods setting, a down on her luck widowed fishing lodge owner, a shifty man of God, a back woods hick with a drive for power and superiority, a foreigner who speaks not a word of English, a spoiled former debutante, an English or Australian accented G.I., and a mentally challenged young man–all this means sit back and watch magic occur right before your eyes as Kansas City Rep’s newest production, The Foreigner leads audiences on a collision course with absurd, slapstick comedy.
Hilarious, explosive, belly-laughable, chucklesome, comical, farcical, hysterical, laughable, ridiculous, riotous, sidesplitting, uproarious, amusing, entertaining, zany, smart, jocular, playful, campy, whimsical, witty, and just about any other word you find for funny relate to this production populated with some of the most talented and experienced actors in the metro. The cast biographies confirm the richness and fullness of the cast and their expertise in creating varied characters.
The Foreigner benefits from the combo of extraordinary acting talent, a dynamic director and creative team, and a sharply witty script chocked-full of eccentric characters. Director, Jerry Genochio assembled a dynamite cast of Kansas City creative actors. His creative team envisioned a one-set format of an old fishing lodge where the misadventures all come to full bloom.
As the most comedic production on the Kansas City boards, every later production needs to triple efforts to create The Foreigner’s equal. Several will try, probably, but none will excel. The standard set, the bar is established. Unexpected twists, unexpected surprises, unbridled absurdity find a home in Larry Shue’s farce.
Just like a traditional Agatha Christie mystery, all the prime suspects come to the lodge and are introduced to the audience and their various situations come into immediate focus. From there, things only get worse and funnier. Froggy, a G. I. with a strong English or Australian accent and a forceful personality escorts the quieter, introverted Charlie into the lodge only to find out that Charlie does not possess a personality and does not want to talk or interact with others at the lodge. The result: Charlie is a foreigner who speaks nor understands a word of English.
So enter, Rusty Sneary as Froggy LeSueur the G.I. and Charlie, the foreigner. Mild-mannered, introverted Charlie wants peace and quiet, but that seems impossible after the entrance of Betty Meeks in the form of Kathleen Warfel. Warfel’s comedic timing excels throughout the show. For some reason, being told not to talk to Charlie because he does not understand only spurs her to speak louder and louder to “help” him understand. Her kindheartedness and innkeeper hospitality conflict with Charlie’s need for quiet and solitude. Count on Warfel’s delivery, timing and physical movements to elicit countless laughs.
Next, Kyle Hatley enters with a dim-witted challenged character beyond any other character seen on stage. Hatley created a physical, vocal, endearing, loveable Ellard. Every movement, facial gesture, word, expression, entrance, and exit encourages hearty laughs for the audience. Hatley masterfully developed a new character well worth the price of admission, alone. Be ready to buy Hatley’s charming portrayal of the kind, but dim character. His character growth and some witty lines toward the last of the show, makes the audience embrace both his character and enormous talent.
As a wealthy, spoiled ex-debutante, Emily Shackelford shines. She brings an impetuous, naive character spoiled from an abundance of daddy’s money and jet-set life yearning for her old days’ return. She now faces the prospect of a newly discovered pregnancy, six months before her elaborate wedding to a man of God.
Her fiancé, David, the man of God with some questionable undertones, springs from the creative mind and acting ability of Charles Fugate. Early in the performance, Fugate exposes his plans to secure his fiance’s vast inheritance for his own personal growth and some sort of hidden agenda that rewards him with power and position.
With his partner in crime, Fugate teams with Owen masterfully portrayed by Gary Neal Johnson. Owen bursts on the scene with a backwoodsy character who quickly exposes his evil intentions for the incognito plan masterminded by David.
Words fail to capture the virtuoso performance from Martin Buchanan as Charlie the foreigner. Buchanan, so many times seen around town in supporting roles and generally covering several characters per show absolutely shines as Charlie. The Foreigner gave him free reign to create, develop, and explode his talent in a fully-developed, full-on characterization that requires so much from his physical movements, facial expression, timely action/reactions, zany dialogue and tongue in cheek language acquisition. Be ready to laugh as Buchanan throughout, but save the belly muscles for the final scenes when his character builds to an overwhelming frenzy.
What’s amazing in this production of The Foreigner is that each and every character creates and maintains a strong stage presence, making the audience divide attention to all parts of the stage to watch each and every action, reaction and physical movement of each onstage character.
The madness of The Foreigner encouraged a standing opening night ovation and loud applause from the audience. The clapping and cheers came to full force as Martin Buchanan took his bow. He and his compadres deserve accolades. The highly recommended show should not be missed and is appropriate for all ages. Children through mature adults will all find characters they love and a story full of laughs.
Make plans now to see The Foreigner. It’s a gem in the KC landscape. Do not miss the merriment. Explore the insanity.