The Foreigner a comedy by Larry Shue directed by Rob Warner.
There are kind of spoilers below. Mild ones. For those who don't want to be spoiled the short form is: Go see it, it's funny and it does my favourite play justice. Then come back and read my review.
Wed 4 May 2016, 8:00pm Frid 6 May 2016, 8:00pm Sat 7 May 2016, 8:00pm
Marloo Theatre 20 Marloo Road, Darlington, Perth
Today I saw the matinee for Darlington Theatre Players production of the Foreigner, my favourite play in all the world. I saw it once, in the 80's it must have been sometime, a professional production at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco. They have the poster for it up on their website.
I'd only seen it once, since then. I've done readings and read the script and even got a copy of the other Shue play. And it'd been a long time since I'd seen the last time. Must be at least 10 years. It either doesn't played or I miss it when it comes.
But by chance, I got wind of this production and dragged 4 other people to see it with me, only one of whom had seen it before and didn't remember it, alas. Because it's one of the funniest plays out there and it's so very sad that Larry Shue died so young because he was shaping up great as a playwright.
Briefly, The Foreigner is about a very shy Englishmen, who through the machinations of his more outgoing friend, masquerades as a "Foreigner" to avoid conversation during his holiday at a fishing lodge in the deep south of America. This has unexpected consequences.
The production by the Darlington Theatre Players rivals the professional production I saw when the play first hit Australia which started my life long love of this play. In fact I think it may have the edge.
The set is a dream - I don't know how many hours they must have spent on it. Humourous touches like the only maps available being those of Georgia, the state where the play is set. Lots of fish proudly mounted on the wall of the fishing lodge where everything occurs. Very rustic place. Super effects of the storm and other things-I-can't-tell-you-about-because-spoilers lighting and sound effects.
This is a play that needs careful direction which Robert Warner has certainly more than just cut the mustard. It also needs a sensitive feel for the words and emotion - it's very cleverly written and the characters - especially that of Charlie and Froggy have to be amazingly played.
Fortunately they have in this production hit upon two actors who are perfect for the job. Keith Scrivens, who plays Froggy is wonderfully energetic and you can't help but like him. Watch his expressions, he's wonderful.
But of course it's Joe Isaia as Charlie Baker who has the limelight and he's ~marvellous~. It's not often that you can get someone who can play a serious and sensitive character and couple it with physical comedy, and in this version they don't do the Beautsky Dottsky Marla perfomance with hand gestures, oh no, Joe Isaia as Charlie races from one side of the stage to the other as first Marla "Hopni Skipni tre dewoods" and then the slovenly Broshnei! Broshnei! (spelling approximate) creature on their fateful meeting during Charlie's story. It is one of the highlights of my theatre going experience. He is a great Charlie and it's him I'll think of as Charlie from now on.
Blake Prosser, who plays Ellard Simms, a young lad with an unspecified learning disability, maybe Asperger's, autism or something - not necessarily stupid, just different. And that's important, because this could have just turned him into a plot device, not a human being. And in this production he makes us see Ellard as a human being, and is a great partner in the breakfast physical comedy shenanigans. Like the Mirror Scene with Groucho? You'll like this.
Kylie Isaia plays Catherine Simms, Ellard's sister a bored and uncertain ex-debutante engaged to the local minister. She does a great job as a young woman trying to mask her uncertainties by a bored sarcasm and her delivery of Catherine's rather pointed remarks on occasion hits the nail on the head.
Richard Hadler as Owen Musser is really quite scary. I'm sure he's really a nice guy but the air of barely contained violence and the wilful ignorance of someone who is sure they're right is sobering. He was great in the role. The audience jumped when his character lost it and you could see it building in his expression, tone and entire body language. If they handed out menace Oscars Hadler would be a shoo-in.
Rodney van Groningen played David Lee, the minister engaged to the sarcastic Catherine. His is a complex role and it was brilliantly done, so much so that the audience were reacting to his very presence as he came on in the second act. His delivery was masterful.
Last but not least the wonderful Jacqui Warner played Betty Meeks, the widowed proprietor of the fishing lodge where the play's set. She could easily have overdone it, but played this Southern widow with restraint and great good humour. Again, what could have been a caricature came across as a very human person with more than their fair share of tragedy, gradually being warmed. It was lovely to see.
Timing, feeling, props, set, lights, sound and delivery. This is a fine production.
I love this play, and I love this production of it. I'm hoping to see it again before it closes.
Thank you Darlington Theatre Players, I will definitely be coming to see your production of Weird Sisters.
10/10 Splendid and finding that all your costume jewelry has turned into real jewels on the Sid and Nancy Scale.﻿