‘The Foreigner’ helps us find humor in controversy

Shannon Hauge

Madison Area Technical College Performing Arts puts on "The Foreigner" at the Mitby Theater on March 4.

Adrian Holtzman, Staff writer
March 7, 2012

“The Foreigner,” written by American playwright Larry Shue, is currently being performed at the Mitby Theatre. The hysterical comedy of a shy Englishman, Charlie Baker (played by Dylan Kox), pretending to be a foreigner that can’t speak a word of English, is sure to keep you laughing from start to finish.

Set in a resort-style fishing lodge in rural Georgia in the mid-1900s, the plot revolves around its guest, Charlie, who is brought overseas by Staff Sergeant Froggy LeSueur (played by Matthew DuVall). Charlie is so shy that he is unable to speak, so Froggy devises a plan. He explains to property owner Betty Meeks (played by Elizabeth Hirsch) that Charlie is the native of a foreign country and cannot understand a word of English.

Before long, Charlie finds himself privy to assorted secrets and scandals being freely discussed in front of him by the other visitors. These include secrets revealed by spoiled heiress and southern belle Catherine Simms (played by Katrina Simyab) and her fiancé, a humble preacher with a dark underside, Reverend David Lee (played by Brandon Barwick). Catherine’s goofy and somewhat “slow” younger brother Ellard (played by Brennan Krieger) is a simpleton who isn’t expected of much. Owen Musser (played by Stacy Neal) is a racist county property inspector who is devising some plans of his own.

The overall performance is “amazing” according the play director Miranda Hawk.

“Some of the actors have never been on stage before, for others this was old habit,” Hawk said.

Once casted, the crew prepared for the past six weeks doing table readings and dress rehearsals.

Miranda describes comedies as being one of the hardest genres to direct because you have to get the cues just right in order to keep the story flowing. The timing and the tones are all important to make the comedy seem real rather than rehearsed.

This is this the third show she has directed here at Madison Area Technical College out of over 30 shows she has directed in her career. Miranda’s proudest moment in directing “The Foreigner” was seeing “the actors take on the show as their own, to see them own it.”

On stage there is incredible chemistry amongst the characters.   There are similarities in how other characters perceive Ellard and Charlie in their respective situations, and the two form an ironic connection and friendship. Kox and Krieger have great understanding of each other, and their perfect onstage synchronization yields hilarious comedic results.

The dialogue between every character is wonderful, even when the conversation involves Charlie, who can’t communicate. The script is hilarious, yet develops the plot and characters in a way necessary to push the story forward.

The technical work of the production is equally fantastic. The set is beautiful, perfectly depicting the play’s context. The sound both on and offstage is well heard, even when characters are talking underneath or off of the stage. The lighting is also well executed especially during storms or with scenes requiring different ambiance.

“The Foreigner” is a play that is funny enough to keep you interested from start to finish, and includes an important lesson about the foolishness of life. The changes the characters undergo leave the audience reflecting on occurrences in their own lives.

The content of the play is comparable to that of a PG-13 film due to strong language.

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