"The Foreigner,” now playing at Clear Creek Community Theatre, has an interesting premise.
What would you say in front of someone if you thought they couldn’t understand any English?
In Larry Shue’s award-winning comedy, Charley Baker is a painfully shy English proofreader who takes a trip to a hunting lodge in Georgia to escape his fraught life.
To avoid communicating with the Americans at the lodge, Charley and his friend Froggy decide Charley should pretend to be a foreigner who cannot understand any English.
This vow of silence has the opposite effect as Charley becomes a crucible for the secrets, lies, hopes and dreams of others.
The premise promises a comedy of misunderstandings, and playwright Shue delivers with some good one-liners and plenty of farcical, physical comedy; but the play is a little overlong and there’s an unexpected darkness thanks to two characters who belong to the Ku Klux Klan.
Director David Blystone has drawn good performances from his actors, the action is well choreographed and the production design is well crafted.
Bernie Sandner is great in the title role. He is often wordless or speaking nonsense words but manages to communicate much with body language.
He’s also adept at showing Charley’s growing confidence and his desire of a new and more exciting life.
Jeffrey Drager is managing to be both amiable and imposing as Charley’s soldier friend Froggy, but his English accent needs a little more consistency.
In the supporting cast, there’s a trio of Southern characters that’s a little clichéd. There’s a daffy old woman, a half-wit giant and a jaded former debutant.
Kay Lunn is a fine actress, but she doesn’t have much to work with as the grandmotherly Betty Meeks and the oft-repeated jokes of her communicating to Charley by shouting or listening to his brainwaves wears thin.
Priscilla Marie Ingram’s Southern Belle Catherine has a sharp tongue, but her grace shines through and you can see why Charley falls for her.
Kyle Turner is utterly charming as the dull-witted Ellard and often steals the show.
Nick Churchill and Edmund Pantuliano also are talented performers, but they’re almost too hammy as the villains of the piece.
Churchill cleverly demonstrates the Rev. David Marshall Lee’s slimy duplicity, and Pantuliano has plenty of believable menace. I just wanted them to tone it down a little at times.
All the action takes place in a realistic representation of a hunting lodge with the lighting, costumes and set design working well to create atmosphere.
“The Foreigner” takes a while to warm up and has a slightly uneven mood swings but it offers great reminders that often it’s better to listen rather than talk and kindness is always the answer.
At a glance
WHAT: “The Foreigner”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, April 11-12 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and April 13
WHERE: Clear Creek Community Theatre, 18091 Upper Bay Road, Nassau Bay.
TICKETS: $12 and $14