The Arts, Etc.

Suffield Players

at Mapleton Hall in Suffield, Connecticut

The Foreigner
WEEKENDS through OCTOBER 24, 2009

Review by Donna Bailey-Thompson

    The Suffield Players are whooping it up with a wild and raucous comedy that 25 years ago won Obie and Outer Circle Critics awards for Best New American Play. Written by Larry Shue, The Foreigner is as timely today and perhaps even funnier because, let's face it, the lousy economy has boosted laughing's value into the realm of a precious commodity. As directed by Robert Lunde, the action never lags, nor does sly humor or bellywhompers.

    S/Sgt. Froggy LeSueur, a Brit with a Cockney accent, drags a pathetic Charlie Baker into a Georgia fishing lodge who, if he could, would curl himself into an invisible ball. Froggy (take-charge Mark Proulx) has virtually kidnapped Charlie (Dale T. Facey kidnaps the role), spiriting him away from the hospital bedside of his supposedly dying wife. Charlie's plight is an absence of self-worth which renders him pathologically shy. He describes himself as profoundly boring and entreats Froggy, "How does one acquire a personality?" The possibility of having to interact for three days with other guests at the lodge fills him with panic. Froggy's solution: tell the lodge's owner, Betty Meeks (a forceful Cynthia Lee Andersen) that Charlie is a foreigner who speaks no English. This thrills Betty who has longed to travel; at least now she'll meet a foreigner.

    The other guests are a snippy, unwed pregnant heiress Catherine (as believable as she was as the father-controlled Catherine in The Heiress), her simple brother Ellard (the inventive Brian Rucci), her creepy fiance, the Reverend David Marshall Lee (Christopher Berrien, appropriately mysterious) and the town's racist inspector, Owen Musser (befittingly unlikable).

    That the plot is slim is of little consequence because the real suspense is created by Charlie's determination to remain a speechless cipher. His body language, double and triple takes, the play of emotions across his face, are not simply funny, they are endearing. During a protracted scene in the second act, Charlie and Ellard mimic one another with deftly executed sight gags that carry the audience into near hysteria.

    The Suffield Players' latest contribution to its 57-year history honors the essence of quality community theater.


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