David Douglas’ stage enlivened by ‘The Foreigner’

See why audiences are saying that this modern comedy both tickles the funny bone, and touches the heart …

Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur (played by London Bauman) tells army buddy Charlie Baker (Karsten Montgomery) he’s sure to have a peaceful stay – if he follows his “simple plan” as the curtain goes up on The Foreigner.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What if a person, who spoke no English, was left stranded in a backwoods Georgia fishing lodge with a debutante, her sinister minister fiancée, and his dim-witted sister.

And, what if this man from another land secretly had an excellent command of English?

You’d have the making of the whimsical modern comedy called The Foreigner – the spring comedy that opened in the David Douglas High School (DDHS) Horner Performing Arts Theater on March 8.

Fishin’ lodge owner Betty Meeks (Becca Daigle) is thrilled by the gift of spoons Froggy has brought “from afar”.

Rev. David Marshall Lee (Brian Ott) listens to the shocking secret of heiress Catherine Simms (played by 2013 Portland Rose Festival Princess Kelsey Milks), while Charlie silently listens to the conversation he supposedly doesn’t understand.

Although The Foreigner as a play dates back only to 1984, DDHS theater instructor, and the show’s director, Michael Givler told East Portland News, “It’s already become a ‘classic’ comedy, because it’s a comedic farce that embraces wordplay and physical comedy – as well as provides dramatic moments.”

The Foreigner illustrates the struggles that some newcomers face as they try to integrate into the American culture, Givler said.

Believing the foreigner can’t understand them, the County’s new “Property Inspector” Owen Musser (James Wolfe), shares his evil scheme with Rev. Lee, while nearby foreigner Charlie blithely sips tea.

At breakfast the day after he arrives, Charlie shares silently shares one of his native land’s traditions with Ellie Simms (Amanda Schreiter).

Charlie charms widowed innkeeper Betty, without saying a word.

Superb staging
All of the action takes place on a single set in The Foreigner – but a magnificent set it is: Designed by retiring Theater Manager Mark Taylor, and constructed by his Theater Craft class.

The two different casts – who take the stage, every other night, throughout the show’s run – look right at home in this rustic environment.

Those watching the show will be amazed at the depth of the characters created by these actors, the sparkle of their comedic timing, their gift for physical comedy, and the energy they bring to this wacky story.

Feeling confident that he can’t understand a word she’s saying, Catherine pours out her heart to Charlie, whom she perceives as a “very good listener”.

Feigning that he doesn’t understand English, Charlie still backpedals – smiling – when bully Owen threatens him with great bodily harm.

About the story
Charlie Baker, a bookish British science fiction magazine writer, gets talked into a trip to America with his old army buddy, Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur – who’s providing “explosives training” for the U.S. military.

Because the stuttering Charlie claims he simply can’t talk with other guests staying at Betty Meeks’ ramshackle fishing lodge, Froggy comes up with “perfect” ruse. Froggy tells Betty that Charlie can’t speak or understand a word of English.

The guests, believing that Charlie can’t understand their side conversations, reveal startling developments in their lives. And, the mute visitor becomes privy to a sinister plot being hatched by the hot-headed County Property Inspector Owen Musser, who is also a Ku Klux Klan organizer.

Comedic highlights include Charlie’s apparently miraculously rapid learning of the English language, thanks to his instruction by a guest – the seemingly-not-too bright Ellie Simms, little sister of heiress Catherine.

But, there are dramatic moments too, as when Betty’s fishing cabin is overrun by Klansmen who bring a noose-rope “necktie” to foreigner Charlie.

Thanks to Ellie’s unique “teaching method”, Charlie shows off his “new” English reading skills, to the delight of the household …

… that is, with the exception of Owen – who is obviously not pleased with Charlie’s mocking as he “teaches” his “native language”.

  • What is the newly-wealthy Catherine Simms’s deep, dark secret that – once Charlie hears it –
    solidifies his resolve to “play out” being a foreigner?
  • Can Charlie continue to learn English, thanks to Ellie’s odd language lessons?
  • Will the sinister plan of Catherine’s betrothed – the seemingly pleasant Rev. David Marshall Lee –
    come to fruition?
  • Might Charlie’s amazing strategy help keep the fishing cabin from being “blowed up” by Klansmen –
    and keep him from hanging?
  • Do the words, “Klaatu Barada Nikto” really command dark “hoo-doo” powers, as Owen fears?
  • And, why is all of this driving Sgt. Froggy to drink?

To find out, attend one of the six performances of this well-performed, unlikely, but very funny, lighthearted comedy – which remains true to human nature, despite its absurd excesses.

It’s a show that keeps the audience guessing about how it will all work out in the end.

It looks as if Charlie has attracted the angry, and unwanted, attention of “the boys in town” – as Klansmen barge into the lodge.

Opens March 8
The Foreigner plays on March 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.; and there’s a Family Matinee on March 10 at 2:30 p.m. The show runs again the long weekend of March 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.

We rate this show “PGL” – “Plenty of Gut-busting Laughs” for the whole family.

Parent volunteer Joan Wolfe (her son plays Owen Musser) helps out in the David Douglas Theater Box Office.

Reserve your tickets now, online: CLICK HERE. Or, stop by the Theater Box Office from 3 until 5:30 p.m. on Monday-Wednesday-Friday (school days), an hour before show time, or call (503) 261-8270 for reservations and tickets.

It’s at the David Douglas High School Horner Performing Arts Center, 1400 SE 130th Avenue (Between SE Stark and Division Streets).

This cast of The Foreigner takes a well deserved bow!

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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