The Foreigner. At SBCC’s Garvin Theatre, Friday, October

Reviewed by Bojana Hill

foreigner.jpgIt’s hard enough being a foreigner, but
now imagine being a shy foreigner. Not much more is needed for the
foundation of Larry Shue’s comedy, The Foreigner. Two British
friends — Froggy and Charlie — arrive in a rural Georgia town,
where Froggy has been frequenting the fishing lodge. While Froggy
(Justin Stark) is a tall, gregarious fellow, Charlie (Ed Lee) is
the exact opposite: a timid and gentle man whose wife finds him so
boring that she indulges in frequent affairs. Thus Froggy invents
what he thinks is a brilliant idea to protect his friend from
uncomfortable encounters. Charlie will pretend not to speak any
English, but instead some exotic language from an unspecified
faraway land. The plan actually works — largely because Betty Meeks
(Betty Mann), the owner of the Fishing Lodge Resort, is a simple
woman who wishes she had traveled and seen the world. She solves
the communication problem by yelling very slowly at Charlie, who
shrinks away every time, but she repeats it anyway.

The farcical elements of the show, creative and absurd as they
are, would be only mildly successful without the superb casting of
Lee as Charlie and Devin Scott as Ellard. In performance number 21
with the SBCC Theatre Group, Lee is like a fish in water. He is a
talented comedian who puts his heart into this subtle, dynamic, and
physical performance. Rick Mokler’s choice of an Asian actor for
the lead underscores the gap between Charlie’s “foreignness” and
the xenophobia of the locals — some of whom belong to the Ku Klux
Klan. As Charlie, Lee transforms from a bespectacled, diffident man
into a hilarious storyteller in his “native” tongue — a mixture of
Russian, Esperanto, and who-knows-what-else. He even begins to
enjoy his role, for it enables him to come alive: “Thank you for
making me a foreigner. … I’m [actually] acquiring a personality …
we are making each other complete,” Charlie exclaims in an

Nowhere is that completeness more evident than in his
relationship with Ellard, who resembles Forrest Gump. While Ellard,
played wonderfully convincingly by Scott, may not be exactly
qualified as an English teacher, he helps Charlie “learn” English.
The slow southern drawl, the awkward movements — all is of a piece.
The plot unfolds toward a predictable happy ending, but it is no
less satisfying for that. As director Mokler suggested, “Comedy is
best when it has heart, and when somebody pays a price for being
the bad guy.” If you long for good, continuous laughter, you must
see this Foreigner.


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