Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Foreigner" Review From Pioneer Press

'Foreigner' brings wacky comedy to Metropolis
January 29, 2009
By TOM WITOM Contributor

For comic relief, the late Larry Shue knew what he was doing when he wrote "The Foreigner."
Since its first production in 1983 in Milwaukee and subsequent Off-Broadway success, his play has gone on to tickle the funny bones of countless theater goers.

As mounted at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, the laughs it inspires continue to come at a fast pace, propelled in large measure by the masterly performance of lead Craig Gustafson, who proves himself highly adept at physical humor. He plays Charlie Baker, a middle-aged Brit whose wife attributes her unfaithfulness to his totally dull personality.

Charlie has been brought by his friend, Froggy LeSueur (Dennis Brown), a military demolitions expert, as his guest on trip to a small fishing lodge in Atlanta on the belief that a change of scene would do wonders to brighten his life.

To ease Charlie's anxieties about how to interact in a social environment, Froggy passes him off as an associate from an exotic country where English is unknown. But instead of insulating Charlie, the ruse sets him up as the center of attention. Everyone from the innkeeper to fellow guests ends up sharing secrets from gossip to an unexpected pregnancy to a hidden dark side -- under the assumption that such confidences are falling on ears that won't register their import.
"No one can keep a secret like Charlie," says Catherine, a former debutante staying at the lodge. Little does she know.

It's a perfect framework for bringing Charlie out of his shell. In quick succession he is befriended by the lodge owner (Mickey Crocker), Catherine (Jes Bedwinek) and her slow-witted brother Ellard (Dominic Furry) who is eager to teach him English. He also encounters Catherine's conniving fiance David (Eric Martin) and his unsavory associate Owen (Michael B. Woods) and learns of their scheming to take control of the lodge.

Among the funniest scenes is one in which Charlie tries to "teach" his made-up language to the guests, including Owen, an unwilling pupil who becomes the butt of the farcical lesson.
In Act II, the action escalates -- and takes a peculiarly dark turn -- as certain characters are revealed as racists plotting to do bodily harm to Charlie and to commandeer ownership of the lodge. Dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes, they launch a frontal attack on the lodge. But this being a comedy, Charlie manages to thwart their plans -- albeit through a lame plan -- and save the day.

'THE FOREIGNER' Through Feb. 21 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. $26-$42. (847) 577-2121 or