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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

Review: Laughter Runs Throughout 'The Foreigner'

Featured in
Featured in "The Foreigner" are, from left, David McCall, Danny Vaccaro, Gwen Edwards and Mary Lucy Bivins.

By ROBERT MCKINNEY | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER | September 15, 2009

*** Published Sept. 10 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier.***

You might ought to plan on going to see Barter Stage II's "The Foreigner" twice the second time to catch all the jokes you missed because you and your fellow audience members were laughing so hard the first time around.

Sure, I know, you have probably already seen a lame production of Larry Shue's comedic masterpiece somewhere or other. Unfortunately, it is somewhat of a staple among high school drama teachers and amateur theater groups who think quite mistakenly that comedy is the easiest type of play to do.

But, as any pro will tell you, heavy drama is much, much easier than good comedy.

The professionals at Barter's Stage II, however, have no such trouble and, what's more important, they all have seemingly perfect comedic timing.

They know just how much to push it, and wonderful directors such as Katy Brown know how to keep it coming.

Michael Poisson is just absolutely perfect as "Froggy" LeSeur, the English sergeant who comes to the Colonies once a year to teach our guys how to blow up mountains, and Danny Vaccaro is equally good as the much cuckolded Charlie Baker who Froggy brings along for a bit of a rest at the Georgia fishing lodge of his old friend Betty Meeks (Mary Lucy Bivins).

Charlie, whose flirtatious wife is supposedly dying back home, is a nervous wreck with loads of negative self-esteem who is so afraid to talk to strangers that Froggy introduces him as a foreigner who knows nary a word of English and to whom it is best not to talk to at all.

This sets the scene for hilarity as the right reverend David Marshall Lee (J. Casey Barrett) and Ellard Simms (David McCall) scheme to rob poor Mrs. Meeks of her property and set up an all-white nation with no use for foreigners and in which the KKK rules.

Meanwhile, poor Catherine Simms (Gwen Edwards), the wife-to-be of the right evil right reverend Lee is having to cope with her "accidental" pregnancy (engineered by the right reverend, no less), while Owen Musser (Andrew Hampton Livingston) is turning out to be just a whole bunch smarter than people give him credit for being.

Thinking that Charlie really is unable to understand English, Catherine pours out her heart to him, and Owen takes it upon himself to teach Charlie English.

Everything comes to a genuinely scary head when the Kluxers show up looking for Charlie, but they are hardly prepared for their reception that is complete with dissolving Klan members, exploding mini-vans and smartly applied croquet mallets.

Things work out quite well in the end, of course, and the only tears running down anybody's cheeks are tears of laughter. As the curtain falls, it even looks as if Charlie is going to make out just fine after he receives a telegram informing him that his sick wife has fully recovered, gotten up off her deathbed and run off with boyfriend #28, a proctologist, leaving Charlie free to we can only assume the beginning of a lasting friendship with the sweet and very attractive Catherine.

The only part of "The Foreigner" that isn't hilarious is the appearance of the KKK, which, even for a good old son of the South like me, sends chills up the spine although I know the Kluxers are going to get theirs' at least in this play.

I think "The Foreigner" could benefit from a re-write in which the bad guys are simply a bunch of ignorant rednecks (or is this a redundancy?) or white supremeist wannabes. There is just no way to make the "KKK" funny and if the bed sheet brigade makes me uncomfortable, imagine how its appearance must make African-Americans feel.

All that having been pontificated, however, if you want to laugh and just have a large old time of it, do go see "The Foreigner." It's probably the best laugh you are likely to have for a very long time.

For dates, times and reservations: (276) 628-3991 or www.bartertheatre.com.

A! ExtraTopics: Theatre