The Foreigner

By Larry ShueThe Foreigner by Larry Shue

Directed by Timothy Gregory

At Provision Theater, Chicago

“Blazny blit hitski” – said Charlie

Hilarious comic farce features fantastic comic players adept at their  craft

Larry Shue’s 1983 comedy, The Foreigner,  first produced in Milwaukee then playing for 685 Off-Broadway performances despite bad reviews proves that sometimes audience appeal and word-of-mouth means more than critic’s reviews. However, I really enjoyed Tim Gregory’s Provision Theater’s production of the wacky comedy. One of the keys to Gregory’s production was in his casting of wonderful, lovable skilled comics in the leads.

The Foreigner by Larry Shue

Glory Kissel anchors the work with her most empathetic yet funny take as Betty Meeks, the proprietor of the rural Georgia Bread & Breakfast.  Doing her Edith from All In The Family take, Kissel combines funny physical comedy with her spot-on razor-sharp comic shops as we quickly lover her. When she is visited by her British Army friend S/Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur (Michael Perez), he brings the nerdy, proof-reader social-challenged Charlie Baker (the winning Rod Armentrout) who is so pathologically shy that he is unable to speak at times. As way of explanation, Froggy claims his companion is the native of an exotic country who does not understand a word of English. Before long, Charlie finds himself privy to assorted secrets and scandals freely discussed in front of him by the other visitors.

The Foreigner by Larry Shue

With a clever premise, Shue populates his comedy with a host of interesting characters besides the adorable zany Betty Meeks. There is Catherine Simms (Brit Cooper Robinson) the Southern belle engaged to Reverend David Lee (Chris Amos). Her brother, Ellard Simms (Alex Goodrich) is the ‘slow boy’ in the Forrest Gump vain. Owen Musser (Colin Wasmund) is the ignorant cracker racist with plans to turn the B&B into a KKK venue.

Besides the hilarious exchanges between Betty and Charlie, we see how all the characters openly speak in front of  Charles since they believe he doesn’t understand their words. The folks grow to love and trust Charlie mostly due to Shue’s clever characterization and Rod Armentrout’s tour de force performance. He invents a pig-Latin language , gloriously pretends he doesn’t understand anything and he ‘learns’ their language in a series of funny imitative scenes.

This charming comedy is full of clever plot twists that will surprise you. We stay with story expecting predictable situations but we delightfully enjoy the quirky surprises. The laughs come from word play, physical comedy and from the rich in-character responses. Shue garners laughs as Ellard teaches Charlie English and also when Charlie teaches the clan his pig-Latin language.  I appreciated the stage craft of this cast, especially  Kissel, Armentrout and Goodrich. This is a smart, totally engaging and terrifically performed comedy that quickly grabs us and keeps us laughing and guessing what will happen next. We all need a funny show during these dark cold winter days. Provision Theater has a winner with The Foreigner – don’t miss it!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: February 11, 2012

For more inf o checkout The Foreigner page on theatreinchicago.com

At Provision Theatre, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL, call (312) 455-0065. www.provisiontheater.org, tickets $27 – $30, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3 pm,running time is 2 hours 40 minutes with intermission, through March 18, 2012