Sept. 09--The Festival's September requires a certain formula. It must be fast-paced and energetic, contain heart and be very funny. ISF's production of Larry Shue's "The Foreigner" is four for four.
The show opened Saturday to a nearly sold-out audience.
Director Sari Ketter molded Shue's script into a lovely piece of theater, with its greatest asset its tight ensemble acting.
This uproarious farce is filled with silly jokes and subtle messages about tolerance, religious hypocrisy and fear of the outsider -- all themes from the 1980s, when the play was written, that still are particularly relevant today.
The premise is a bit absurd: guest at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia, Charlie (Gordon Reinhart), a nebbishy anxious Brit, is presented as a "foreigner" who can't speak or understand English by his friend Staff Sgt. Froggy LeSueur (Dudley Swetland) so Charlie can avoid talking and ease his overwhelming shyness.
Once the owner Betty (Lynn Allison) and the other guests -- the Rev. David Marshall Lee (Richard Klautsch) his fiancee Catherine (Georgina Stoyles) and her brother Ellard (Steve Cardamone) and the local county inspector Owen (Justin Ness) -- find out, they unload their carefully kept secrets in front of him. That leads to some wacky solutions to the zany challenges the play provides.
Reinhart's warm and charming performance as Charlie creates the center of the production. Reinhart is often behind the scenes for these September shows. He directed past hits such as "Noises Off" and "Greater Tuna."
It's a pleasure to see him again in an acting role. Without having to talk, Charlie blooms and reinvents himself from nerd to hero. And each relationship he forges changes the characters for the better and offers Reinhart and the other actors wonderful moments to up the comedy stakes.
Swetland is simply loveable as the affable British explosives expert Froggy, who has a soft spot for Charlie and for Betty, who is trying to keep her lodge from being condemned. Allison manages sweet and sincere without being syrupy as Betty, and Stoyles is great as the brassy, fast-talking Southern spitfire Catherine who finds her allegiances challenged.
Cardamone is delightfully funny as the slow-witted Ellard (think Daryl and his other brother rolled into one). Klautsch is perfect as the smooth-operating reverend with a devious scheme and Ness is both scary and dopey as the neighborhood fascist who decides he's had enough of them "furriners."
Nayna Ramey's set and Star Moxley's costuming work in concert to give the show a grounded, down-home feel.
Peter John Still's sound design echoes with everything from ultra believable rolling thunder to car sounds off in the distance.
Raquel Davis' lighting gets more play as this production happens in more darkness than those earlier in the season. In the second act, she creates a terrific moment when several vans drive up to the lodge, their headlights shining through windows and casting backlit shadows over the entire stage and surrounding area.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland
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