Cuddly entertainment with a warm message…..what’s not to love?
|Provision Theater presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
I am still haunted by a Flannery O’Connor story that I read thirty years ago. “The Displaced Person” is about a foreigner transplanted to Georgia as a farmhand. He is treated as an outcast. He keeps to himself. People hate him because they don’t know who is. And the ending… yikes!
Provision Theater presents The Foreigner. Charlie is a dull Englishman. His marriage is in the toilet. His wife is cheating and dying on him. His best mate Froggy books him an escape at a homey lodge. Froggy knows the owner Betty. Charlie hesitates because he dreads any human interaction. Froggy promises Charlie solitude. He tells Betty that Charlie is a foreigner and doesn’t speak English. Instead of avoiding him, Betty and the other guests are captivated. Before Charlie can confess the truth, he has become a confidante, pupil and beloved. For Charlie, living a lie is living the life… until he’s a target of the Klan. Will his secret kill him? The Foreigner is a charming comedy about the magic of kindness.
Playwright Larry Shue wrote this amusing farce in the early 1980’s. Pre 9/11, the mystique of a person from another country was alluring, not distrusting. Shue cleverly puts a variety of downtrodden people together and let’s kindness empower. It could have been schmaltzy cornball, but under Director Timothy Gregory it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Gregory paces it with a little slapstick and a lot of perfect comedic timing. At the heart of the story, this displaced person is adorable. Rod Armentrout (Charlie) transforms from quiet doormat to animated spotlight. Armentrout has an awakening on stage. He becomes the foreigner that everyone is interested in. It’s Armentrout’s exhausting delivery of buffoonery that delights. With limited words, Armentrout uses his physicality to make the joke. And he does it, red-faced, sweating and smiling. Armentrout is having fun with this role so the audience does too. His sidekick, Alex Goodrich (Ellard) usually plays the high-energy, hi-jinx role in other shows I’ve seen. So, his performance as a lovable dolt surprises and enchants. The entire ensemble comes together with homespun humorous hospitality.
Scenic Designer Inseung Park creates the lodge-look complete with mounted deer head, postcard kiosk and woodburning stove. He also completes the front door and windows opening with an outdoor space. The choice heightens the jokes in some but is pivotal in an end scene. (When the Klan arrives on the property, you see them encircling the lodge before they are in the house.) Even though it’s a playful comedy, the sudden KKK appearance is gasp-worthy disconcerting.
There is a lot to love about The Foreigner. It’s cuddly entertainment with a lingering message to be kind. Sorry Flannery, I kind of love this message better.
The Foreigner continues through March 18th at Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $10-$30, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online at OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ProvisionTheater.org. (Running time: 2 hours and fifty minutes, which includes an intermission)
behind the scenes
Rod Armentrout (Charlie); Glory Kissel (Betty); Chris Amos (David); Brit Cooper Robinson (Catherine); Colin Wasmund (Owen); Michael Perez (Froggy); Alex Goodrich (Ellard); Jason Love, Nathan Grant (understudies)
behind the scenes
Timothy Gregory (director); Matthew McMullen (stage manager); Inseung Park (set design); Liz Meenan (costumes); Marly Wooster (lighting); Jeff Shields (props); Ashley Woods (scenic painter); Joe Dybdal (tech director)