Playwright: Larry Shue
Company: Spotlight Theatre Company
Venue: John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver CO
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Sunday, July 5, 2015.
The Foreigner is one of those shows that I can’t describe in great detail without giving away too much of the story. What I can say is that it involves a character (Charlie Baker, played with panache by Bernie Cardell) who pretends to be a “foreigner” who knows no English. Charlie gets to listen to all manner of intimate, personal conversations that others assume are meaningless to him. This set up is very productive; the jokes nearly write themselves.
The script meanders, though, in the second act, introducing social commentary wrapped in white sheets and lots of laughter. It’s a bit of a mismatch; I’m not one to find humor in stereotyping either foreigners or southerners. The Foreigner is fair about it though, getting laughs at the expense of both.
The Foreigner's social commentary conveys a worthwhile message: we all need to improve our attitudes about those who don’t look like, talk like, or act like we do. That message was relevant when The Foreigner opened in 1984, and unfortunately, it is still relevant thirty years on. Indeed, given recent events in Charleston, SC, it’s obvious that some things change very slowly if at all
|Bernie Cardell as Charlie Baker.|
Charlie Baker is an over actors’ dream role, and Bernie Cardell is on fire, playing, betraying, and displaying a shy guy who is getting exactly what he asked for. His transformation from recluse to mischievous manipulator could be the center piece of a Master Class in both comedy and acting.
In the second act, Cardell tells a story from his “native” land. It’s a solid 5-8 minutes of jibberish, all passionately delivered with Mr. Cardell’s most sincere flair for the absurd. Cardell’s story is captivating, sublime, and entirely unintelligible. If there’s a funnier five minutes on a Denver stage right now, I’d like to see it.
Even as he “learns” English from Ellard (Luke Allen Terry), Cardell convinces the cast (and the crowd in the seats, for that matter) that he’s really just learning to speak. And he’s not just learning to speak English; he’s learning to speak it with a southern drawl. If you think you know how to pronounce all the names of your eating utensils, think again. Cardell never flinches; he puts a southern drawl on his lines just as easily as he does an English accent.
|Luke Allen Terry (Ellard), Bernie Cardell (Charlie).|
Luke Allen Terry is a marvelous match for Cardell’s hijinks; he plays the “good ol boy” like he grew up in Georgia. He looks and sounds the part, teaching English even though it may not have been his strong suit in school. When Cardell says “tomorrow we’re going to work on prepositional phrases,” Terry responds with a look of both fear and confusion, and we all know that Ellard is no longer sure who is the student and who is the teacher.
Betty Meeks (a role that could have been written with Mari Geasair in mind) is the matronly if naive owner of “Meek’s Fishing Lodge” in Tilghman County, Georgia. Geasair is priceless as she gets to host a “foreigner,” a visitor from an exotic but unnamed land. She takes a mother’s pride in showing off Charlie Baker to everyone in earshot. Geasair deftly pulls off Betty’s naiveté without looking silly in the process.
|Bernie Cardell (Charlie), Mari Geasair (Betty), Luke Allen Terry (Ellard).|
Luke Sorge (Reverend David Marshall Lee) and Leroy Leonard play the heavies, and they are as fine a pair of villains as you’ll find anywhere. Leonard can hardly mask the evil he brings to the table. Sorge, on the other hand, poses as a saint while working up all kinds of mischief and mayhem.
Andy Anderson (Froggy Le Seuer) is Charlie’s sidekick, and he gets a chance to do the best eye rolls in the show.
Adrian Egolf (Catherine Simms) rounds out the cast, strutting, flirting, and bringing some light and a lot of heat to the story. Egolf gets to wear a couple of killer costumes, thanks to Costume Designer Susan Rahmsdorff. Her Catherine is smart, sassy, sexy, and altogether lovable.
Director Katie Mangett (with an assist from Emma Messenger) has a marvelous cast to work with, and she knows exactly how to get the most out of them. Mangett’s pacing is excellent; it’s a complicated story to set up and it can get lost if rushed. Her comedic timing is precise; every gesture and facial expression is timed perfectly with the script for maximum effect. There is a technically difficult effect in the second act involving a disappearing actor, and Mangett executes it beautifully.
Spotlight Theatre Company’s production of The Foreigner delivers fun…LOTS of fun. It’s a funny, relevant, high quality production of a very good script. You don’t have to take my word for it; the performances are selling out every night. In fact, demand for tickets is so high that Spotlight has extended the run through August 1. In my experience, that is a very rare occurrence, and the very definition of a hit show. If you don’t have tickets yet, don’t wait any longer. They won’t last long.
Bernie Cardell is one of the most productive and prolific theater professionals currently working in the Denver area. I’m extending my personal congratulations, Mr. Cardell here. The Foreigner is his 100th production.
Originally scheduled to close on July 25, The Foreigner has been extended and is now scheduled to close on August 1, 2015.
There is ample free parking at the theater.
This show is suitable for all ages.
“Bringing good scripts to vigorous life comes as close to giving birth as is possible outside biology.” John Hand.
Every time you go to a show at the John Hand Theater, you will find a statement from Mr. Hand in your program. It’s just three paragraphs, and it’s titled “Why I Like Putting on Plays.” It’s worth reading. John Hand was the founder of Colorado Free University (CFU), the building in which the John Hand Theater is located.
If you don’t remember the crime, Mr. Hand was stabbed to death by a robber in March, 2004. CFU and Hand’s sister Helen Hand have not only kept the University functioning and thriving after his death, but they also remind each of us when we enter the John Hand Theater of the indelible mark he left on Denver.
His loss was tragic, but his contribution to education and the arts is a legacy we will not forget.
This show has been extended, and is now scheduled to close on August 1, 2015.
PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:
|Photos Credit: Serioz Pizza|
Our favorite restaurant near the John Hand Theater is Serioz Pizza in the Lowry Town Center (200 Quebec Street, Denver). It’s one of the few restaurants that will make my favorite pizza: thin crust with pepperoni, bacon, and green olives. I’m always impressed when they bring out the free appetizer; garlic bread hot out of the oven with butter, cheese, and marinara sauce for dipping.
I go for the pizza, but I come back for the Italian Nachos: Italian sausage, tomatoes, jalapenos & tortilla chips for $5.00. Happy Hour is 4:00-7:00 PM, seven days a week, featuring 2-for-1 wells, $1.50 off Draft beers and $4 House Wines. Daily specials:
- Mon - Happy Hour ALL Day
- Tue - $5 Smirnoff U-call-it
- Wed - $2 Great Divide DPA
- Thu - $4 Margs / Marg Slammers
- Fri - Happy Hour 4-7 pm
- Sat - $5 Martinis (well)
- Sun - $6 pitchers of Bud / Bud Light
Director: Katie Mangett
Assistant Director: Emma Messenger
Artistic Director/Scenic Designer: Bernie Cardell
Lighting Designer: Vance McKenzie
Sound Designer: Luke Terry
Costume Designer: Susan Rahmsdorff
Stage Manager: Kevin Rollins
Froggy LeSeuer: Andy Anderson
Charlie Baker: Bernie Cardell
Betty Meeks: Mari Geasair
Reverend David Marshall Lee: Luke Sorge
Owen Musser: Leroy Leonard
Catherine Simms: Adrian Egolf
Ellard Simms: Luke Allen Terry