What the Towne Players’ energetic encore production of The Foreigner by Larry Shue lacks in acting polish, it more than makes up in contagious high spirits. Staging this side-splitting comedy with much the same cast as the Garner, NC-based community theater’s 2003 presentation, Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt employs a very broad brush, which kept last Saturday night’s audience guffawing throughout the evening, which ended with a standing ovation.
The Foreigner stars Greg Flowers as the title character: sad-sack Charlie Baker, who reluctantly accompanies his indomitable friend, British S/Sgt. and demolition expert “Froggy” LeSueur (Don Howard), on a weekend military exercise in rural Georgia, where Charlie pretends that he doesn’t speak English, so he won’t have to speak with the locals while he nurses a heart shattered in a million little pieces by the serial infidelities of his faithless and ostensibly fatally ill wife.
Flowers, who in recent years has emerged as one of the Triangle’s finest comic actors, is in top form in The Foreigner; and Rusty Sutton also is a scream as roly-poly Ellard Simms, Charlie Baker’s well-meaning but hopelessly dim-witted sidekick and co-conspirator in a desperate scheme to prevent the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan from taking over Betty Meeks’ Fishing Lodge Resort. The scene in which the lumbering, thick-tongued Ellard tries to teach English to the mercurial Charlie, in fits and starts, with Ellard’s fractured syntax and Southern speech mannerisms stretching one-syllable words to two syllables or more, and Charlie copying him sound for sound, is one of the funniest comic interludes of this or any other theater season.
Don Howard plays Froggy with a bit too much of a stiff upper lip, and he and Frances Stanley lack the onstage chemistry to make the smoldering romance between LeSueur and Betty Meeks really catch fire. Michael Armstrong comes on a bit too strong as loathsome, loud-mouthed, and thoroughly corrupt Tilghman County property inspector Owen Musser, but he still has some amusing moments. Kelly Stansell is much funnier as poor pregnant heiress Catherine Simms, and Roberto Velarde is wonderfully wicked as Catherine’s tall, dark, and handsome but treacherous fiancé the Rev. David Marshall Lee.
The Towne Players’ uproarious rendition of The Foreigner greatly benefits from the splendid set devised by director Beth Honeycutt and her husband, technical director Scott Honeycutt. All in all, The Foreigner is an entertaining — if uneven — rendition of an Off-Broadway hit that could be even funnier if some of the rough spots were smoothed out.
The Towne Players present The Foreigner Thursday-Saturday, May 24-26, at 8 p.m. in Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 West Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina. $10 ($8 students and seniors 55+). 919/779-6144. The Towne Players: http://www.towneplayers.com/ [inactive 9/10]. Garner Historic Auditorium: http://www.ci.garner.nc.us/historicaud.htm [nactive 1/10].