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The Global Film Village: “The Foreigner” pays a visit to the Sierra Madre Playhouse

by Marla Lewin

"The Foreigner" Lindsay Ballew and Jon Powell Photo by John Johnson

Playwright Larry Shue graduated cum laude in film from Illinois Wesleyan University and was a Vietnam War Veteran. Shue was also an actor, and appeared on the daytime drama, “One Life to Live” and in the feature film, “Sweet Liberty.”  His other plays include “The Nerd,” “Grandma Duck is Dead,” and “My Emperor’s New Clothes.”  He died in a commercial plane crash in 1985, at the age of 39. It is a shame, as he was a great talent who was by all accounts just coming into his own.  The play won two Obie Awards and twoOuter Critics Circle Awards, including Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production.

 

“The Foreigner”, is set in the spring of 1983, at Betty Meeks’ Fishing Lodge in Tilghman County, Georgia. Looking back from our vantage point in 2009, it is hard to believe that that just 26 years ago there were be places in America, that could have been so sheltered that they would be effected so much by the  presence of a foreigner.  But that was before the internet and the pervasiveness of cable television with its hundreds of channels. Froggy La Sueur, (Mark E Rainey) and Charlie are supposed to be  in Tilghman County on business.  Froggy, is dressed in camoflage clothing as if he is still in the war, or ready for a hunt.   Charlie confesses to him that he caught his wife with another man. After further questioning, it becomes apparent that she has been with many other men.

 

Charlie is in a frump, knowing that his marriage is doomed.  He doesn’t wish to speak to strangers, so Froggy decides to tell his hosts that Charlie is a foreigner, who speaks no English.  Betty, the innkeeper seems to have never left the lodge or the south, for that matter, is fascinated to have a foreigner in their midst, and wants to do everything to make him feel at home.  The rest of the characters in the play, reveal their secrets to Charlie, believing he does not understand them.  This is a play about looking beyond appearances, and the games we all play in this thing called life.  It all turns more serious when Charlie overhears a plot to cheat Betty out of her fishing lodge.  What can Charlie do, and how can he do it, without blowing his cover.  Actually, Charlie is blossoming as a result of the attention he is receiving from his new Georgia friends.  The charm of this play is how Shue manages to resolve his characters conflicts and entertain us.

 

The Foreigner is an enjoyable night of theatre.  It is a farce, and the scenes between Charlie,( Jon Powell) and Ellard Simms,(J.R. Mangels) are brilliantly directed by Stan Kelly.  The tour de force, brings “humor off the page, and onto the stage.” Other fine cast members, are Joannie Marx as Betty, (Joanne co-stars with Adam Sandler in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People;” Jay Bingham as Rev. David Lee; Jack Kennedy as Owen Musser; Lindsay Ballew, as Catherine. They all do a great job.

 

Check it out at 87 Sierre Madre Blvd., Sierre Madre, California, 91024.. Tickets: 626 355-4318 http://www.sieramadreplayhouse.org Through November 14, 2009.

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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