The Foreigner at Lakewood Theatre Company
November 5 - December 12, 2010 - Oregonian review
Laughs fly thick and fast in this slick Lakewood production of 'The Foreigner' Posted by OregonLive Nov. 6, 2010
Pictured: Gavin Hoffman as Ellard and Jeff Gorham as Charlie in Lakewood Theatre Company's production of The Foreigner, playing through December 12.
Sometimes plain old laughter is the panacea for all that ails us. “The Foreigner,” currently at Lakewood Theater, offers just such a cure for stress and distress, as the laughs fly thick and fast in this comedy by the late Larry Shue. Lakewood’s productions appear to be getting slicker and smarter, and this production, directed with attention to tight pacing and fluid movement by Joe Theissen, is no exception.
Set in a rustic fishing lodge in rural Georgia, the play follows the adventures of Charlie (played by Jeff Gorham), a British fellow so painfully shy that the friend who has brought him there, Staff Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur (Brandon Weaver), devises a plan to protect his privacy. He tells everyone Charlie is a foreigner who speaks no English in hopes that the other guests and locals will leave him alone. Charlie, the unsuccessful editor of a science fiction magazine, has been cuckolded by his wife more than once, apparently because he’s so boring. But with this plan, transformation is waiting in the wings.
Betty (Dalene Young), the lodge proprietor, is fascinated by foreigners and foreign travel, so naturally lavishes attention on him. Heiress and socialite Catherine Simms (Ileana Herrin), who’s engaged to the shady preacher Rev. David Marshall Lee (Garland Lyons), finds herself telling the mute stranger all her problems in the knowledge he can’t comprehend them. And Lee and his evil redneck associate Owen Musser (Todd Tschida) talk freely in front of Charlie, revealing their plans to take over the town.
Catherine’s younger brother Ellard, a prize performance by Gavin Hoffman, is hang-dog and inarticulate, some say mentally retarded, therefore not deserving of his promised $100,000 inheritance. But with the inadvertent help of Charlie, he reveals himself to be one of the smartest people around.
Gorham shines in the lead role. His Charlie discovers he’s quite adept at play-acting with style. He pretends to learn English from the patient Ellard, and creates a foreign language of his own that sounds a lot like imitation Russian. This is a delectable role for anyone with comic skills, and Gorham takes it and runs with it, still careful not to upstage others needlessly. As his nemesis Owen, sweet-faced Tschida really plays against type: He’s a surly, stupid redneck with ties to the Klan, and Tschida makes him both menacing and silly. We’re pretty sure what’s going to happen in the end, but it’s such fun getting there that we don’t care.
Jeff Seats’ warm-hued set of the rustic resort, with its gleaming wooden interior and mounted moose head over the fireplace, is excellent, and Kurt Herman’s lighting design gives it all a very realistic dimension. Design-wise, the only jarring note are Herrin’s costumes, too pale and skin-toned. She’s pale enough as it is, and could have benefited from a bit more makeup as well. Often, she seemed to fade into the set.
An interesting note on how Shue got the idea for his best-known play: He was traveling in Japan, and realized that the natives would forgive a foreigner a lot when it came to customs and manners because they realized he didn’t know their language. Shue took the idea, stretched it out and used it marvelously to his advantage.
The show runs nearly three hours, with one intermission.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, plus various times Sundays, through Dec. 12, 2010
Where: Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego
Tickets: $27-24, 503-635-3901
© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved. -- Holly Johnson, The Oregonian