The Alhambra Theatre & Dining celebrated spring by opening its first non-musical since new ownership took over the reins of this legendary dinner theater. Their choice of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner, a hysterical farce of grand proportions, could not have been better. The play ranks right up there as one of the best theatrical farces along with Noises Off, Rumors, Blithe Spirit and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. We liked it because it is one of the best and is truly a farce with a heart.
The comedy is set in a fishing lodge in Georgia over the course of three days. Set Designer David Dionne’s “Meeks Lodge” is excellent and convincingly rustic. Visiting Englishman Charlie Baker (Michael Stauss) is terribly shy and admits he considers himself extremely boring; so boring that his wife back home gives this as her reason for multiple infidelities. So when Charlie has to stay at the lodge while his buddy Froggy LeSeur (Tony Triano, long-time Alhambra favorite) is out on army maneuvers, he is petrified at the prospect of meeting and conversing with strangers. To solve the problem, his buddy tells everyone that Charlie is a foreigner who can’t speak or understand English.
The situation delights the lodge owner, Betty Meeks (Brooks Anne Meierdierks, whom you probably know better from her former stage name, Brooks Anne Hayes). Betty considers the visitor exotic because she has never met a real foreigner! Charlie’s presence fascinates Betty and others, who are soon speaking freely around him, in the mistaken belief that their secrets are safe.
Reverend David Lee (W.C.Green) and his fiancée Catherine (Kelly Atkins), are guests at the lodge, and she pours her heart out to Charlie, even though he won’t understand, because she has no one else in whom she can confide. Then there is Catherine’s brother, the mentally challenged Ellard (Ken McNamara). Ellard befriends Charlie, and is soon engaged in teaching him English and other coping skills. Charlie lets Ellard think he is succeeding because it makes Ellard feel smart; we can see his self-esteem improve.
Owen Musser, (Jon Coen) is reprising a role he previously did on this stage, and he is wonderful as the chief bigot who has big plans to buy the lodge as a head quarters for his subversive-terrorist group. Mr. Coen manages to be funny and fierce at the same time and you will love him and hate him at the same time.