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LA Theater Review

The Foreigner

It's hard to find an audience that doesn't love Larry Shue's very funny comedy. Combine that appeal with first-rate comic actors, inspired direction by Jules Aaron, and outstanding production values, and you have a more-than-agreeable evening of theatre.

Brit Charlie Baker (Morgan Rusler) is fearfully shy. His friend "Froggy" (Preston Maybank) has brought him to Georgia while they are on military duty, leaving him for three days at Betty Meek's (Jane A. Johnston) luxurious Fishing Lodge Resort. So no one will force him to talk, Charlie is introduced as a foreigner who doesn't speak English. As one might imagine, he finds himself in improbable situations with the other lodge guests. He is mentored by Ellard (James Leo Ryan), the likeable but dim brother of Catherine Simms (Julia Coffey), whose engagement to the smarmy Rev. David Marshall Lee (Jamison Jones) is not the picture-perfect romance one might wish for. Charlie is also belittled by a nasty redneck, Owen Musser (Michael Rothhaar); how he turns the tables is hilarious.

Johnston is terrific as the dithery hostess, shouting at Charlie so he can understand her and delighted to have some excitement. Ryan is also pluperfect as he puts his limited skills to the test as Charlie's tutor. He misses no opportunity for subtle nuance. Rothhaar, Maybank, and Jones are fine, as well. It is Rusler, however, whose comic skills as the beleaguered "foreigner" are superlative. He has a half-dozen different faces for each emotion—surprise, fear, triumph—and he uses them with comic precision.

Aaron's hand can be seen in ensemble scenes where the cast unifies to provide the perfect backdrop when Charlie is center-stage. Coffey is also splendid as the neurotic former deb thrown into this mix. John Iacovelli's impressive hunting lodge is a feast for the eyes, and J. Kent Inasy's lighting enhances it beautifully. David Edwards contributes realistic sound effects throughout.

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