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The frantic farce of The Foreigner'

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UMaine summer theatre kicks off third season

ORONO The University of Maine Summer Music Theatre Festival is back with their 2012 season.

This season debuts with 'The Foreigner' by Larry Shue. The production is actually a collaboration between UMSMTF and Bangor Community Theatre. Performances are at the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the University of Maine campus and run through June 17.

Charlie Baker is a bit of a dull guy nice, but dull. Charlie's friend Froggy LeSueur is a British explosives expert who occasionally comes to the U.S. to run training sessions. Froggy brings Charlie along with him on one of these jaunts, putting him up in a rural fishing lodge in Georgia.

However, Froggy must tend to his duties and leave Charlie alone at the lodge, which serve only to exacerbate Charlie's feelings of shyness. In an attempt to help his friend, Froggy tells Betty, the lodge owner, that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and neither speaks nor understands English.

Unfortunately for him, rather than allowing him to retreat into solitude, Charlie's 'foreignness' serves only to make him fascinating to the others at the lodge Betty, the Reverend David and his fiance Catherine, Catherine's brother Ellard and the ornery Owen Musser.

Charlie soon becomes aware of everyone's issues because he's foreign, and hence everyone assumes they can simply speak as if he weren't there. However, as more and more tensions mount, Charlie must finally break out of his shell if there is to be any hope of a happy ending.

'The Foreigner' is the sort of show that really needs a cast that's firing on all cylinders. It's a wonderful ensemble piece, with quick wit, slapstick and satire abounding. High energy and quick pacing are keys to the show's success. However, there are also moments of vulnerability and intimacy sprinkled throughout; these moments must also be celebrated and explored.

At the epicenter of it all is Charlie. While this is most definitely an ensemble-driven show, the action all revolves around the titular 'foreigner.' Todd McKinley shoulders the load with nary a stumble; his steady evolution from vanilla sad sack to exotic excitement is delightful. Of particular note was McKinley's wonderful physicality we see a certain rubber-limbed quality emerge from the stiffness of the opening scenes.

Randy Hunt brings a smug self-righteousness to his portrayal of the Reverend David Lee, a man of God who may be more than he seems. Sabrina Wirey offers a sweet and bubbly Southern charm as Catherine, while Sam Hallman is hilarious in his dull-wittedness as the slightly thick-headed Ellard. Alison Cox brings shouty good humor to her portrayal of Betty. Steve Estey is a mustachioed dynamo as the ebullient Froggy and Tristan Toole is suitably distasteful as the reprehensible Owen Musser.

Under the direction of Doug Meswarb, the cast generates laugh after laugh. This is a good script, but even good scripts can be torpedoed by poor direction. Meswarb clearly gets it 'The Foreigner' is funny across the board.

David Adkins's design fills the Pavilion with the world of the Georgian hunting lodge. Rather than fight the instant intimacy of the space, Meswarb and Adkins embrace it, bringing the set and the actors right up to the edge of the playing space. There's no real separation we as the audience are not flies on the wall so much as the walls themselves. That closeness only serves to strengthen the viewer's bond to the proceedings.

'The Foreigner' is funny. Really funny. Do you really need any more of a reason? Head up to Orono and support the University of Maine Summer Music Theatre Festival and this show they deserve it.

For tickets to 'The Foreigner' or more information about this show or other parts of the UMSMTF, visit umaine.edu/spa.

Last modified on Friday, 15 June 2012 13:37

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