Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Brian Herndon
Featuring: Robert Fairless, Gary Gerber, Ross Neuenfeldt, Lauren Rhodes, Damien Seperi, Matt Waters
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: October 5 through October 22, 2017; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $37-$54. Visit www.hillbarntheatre.org or call 650-349-6411, extension 2
passes for English in Georgia
in Hillbarn Theatre's production of the popular comedy
"The Foreigner" is a fun little play about an emotionally beaten man who finds out he can have a personality after all, when he pretends to be something he is not.
The Hillbarn Theatre has produced the popular Larry Shue play with an excellent cast on a charming set, and as the show evolves from light comedy to something like madcap farce, it all rings true.
Damien Seperi carries the play on his eyeballs as Charlie Baker, who thinks he shouldn't even be at Betty Meeks' old fishing lodge. He should be sitting by his wife's hospital bed, keeping her company while she dies.
Except she doesn't like him, and doesn't want him there.
It turns out that Charlie's wife has had 23 affairs. With "Actors, writers. All the glamorous professions, you see. Criminals. Veterinarians."
"Because I'm boring," he tells his friend, Sgt. Froggy LeSueur, who has brought him to this rural Georgia get-away.
Charlie, who was a lieutenant who had served with Froggy, who is still a British soldier, has spent 27 years as a proofreader.
"I sometimes wonder whether a science-fiction magazine even needs a proofreader. Does anyone really care whether there is one K or two in ‘Klatu, barada, nikto'?"
And Charlie really doesn't want to have to make conversation with anybody at the lodge when Froggy goes back to his job, which is teaching American soldiers to blow up things.
So Froggy tells lodge owner Betty that nobody should speak to Charlie, because he is a foreigner and is embarrassed because he can't speak English.
Charlie doesn't want to go along with the goofy idea, but is kind of forced into it by circumstances, which is when we first realize that Seperi is brilliant with his eyes and face, and milks Charlie's quandary for every possible laugh.
Seperi looks a lot like a young Andy Kaufman, and when he bugs his eyes out in response to something, it's very, very funny. He has lots to do in this play, up to and including physical comedy, and is great with it all.
As the lodge regulars show up, and learn that the foreigner doesn't understand English, they speak openly, revealing all sorts of secrets in front of him, some of which are unpleasant indeed.
Froggy's friend Betty, who runs the old lodge, is very kind, and very unsophisticated. She thinks, for instance, that it will help Charlie understand English if she YELLS EVERY WORD at him.
Betty is sweetly played by Laurie Strawn, in her Hillbarn debut.
Ross Neuenfeldt, who has done several Hillbarn shows, is a complete actor as Ellard Simms, who isn't too bright, but is nice enough to take on the job of teaching English to Charlie. With a Georgia accent. He holds up a fork: "Faw-werk. Two parts. Faw-werk."
Neuenfeldt acts with his entire body, and Ellard is a shoulder-hulking, shy, nearly lost individual who, like Betty, tries to accept people for who they are.
Ellard is a key to the play, because his sister, Catherine Simmons, has to decide if he is smart enough to inherit money left by their parents. Money that could be used to save the lodge, which is in jeopardy.
Catherine is played with plenty of Southern sass by Lauren Rhodes. Poor Catherine is a fine woman who has doubts about her worthiness.
A bad card in the deck is the Rev. Dave Marshall Lee, who is engaged to Catherine, but who — as Charlie and the audience find out — is just hustling her for that inheritance money. Matt Waters is good in the role because he somehow oozes creepiness even before we come to learn he is a bad guy.
Another bad guy is Owen Musser, who is the epitome of gothic Southern greaseball. Big, mean and threatening. Robert Fairless is excellent in the role.
Gary Gerber is excellent as Froggy, who combines understatedness and bluster as only a British non-com can muster.
The show starts a little slow. Pacing seemed a bit off in the first act on opening night. But it just builds and builds, with Charlie doing more and more over-the-top stuff in his made-up language, till it's practically a riot.
Brian Herndon did a fine job as director, bringing together this fine cast and putting them to work on Gary Keith Wong's beautiful set. Valerie Nishiguchi Bradshaw did a thorough and appropriate job with costume design. John Bernard's lighting design worked efficiently.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org