Director Joanne McGee took the wonderfully written 1984 play by the late Larry Shue and made some amazing comic magic happen right on stage. Not only did Joanne helm this production but she did one of the most detailed and authentically looking sets I’ve ever seen. Along with Tanya Apuya’s amazing costuming, the wonderful lighting design by Anna Cecelia Martin and Nikko Tsiotsias sound design, “The Foreigner” is an extremely side-splitting evening of laughter and fun for everyone!
‘The Foereigner’ named Charlie is fantastically played by Brian Graves. Let me just say that as the ‘fish out of water’ in this play, (a real foreigner who is shy and introverted and forced to stay in a backwoods Georgia ‘bed and breakfast’ of 1984), just watching Brian’s comic timing, elastic physicality and creative gibberish made me feel like I was watching a wonderful classic comic actor of the 50s and 60s era. Not far from the physical antics of the original Dick Van Dyke TV series where slapstick, story and incredible characterization with the performers' talents that I now saw in front of me live on stage, that’s exactly what Brian did for this show. His character is charming, innocent, morally concerned, helpful, hysterical and quick on his feet to deliver some of the best characterizations I have seen in a long time! I just could not stop laughing. Bravo Brian for a wonderful transformation of your character from beginning to end!
His best buddy, also a ‘foreigner’ but known personally by the operators of this out of the way hotel is Froggy who is sharply played by David Ghilardi. David gives a hysterical warmth and charm to his buddy Charlie who he basically abandons with this southern, strangely adorable family-owned hotel. Watching him drink his drink and banter with his other friend Betty will have you in stitches, not to mention the subtle communication he develops with his friend Brian.
Betty, the current owner of this hotel is so warmly and charmingly played by Nan Tepper, a seasoned actress with some of the most incredible comedy timing chops herself. Reacting to Brian and David will just have you laughing out loud as she becomes a teacher, a cook, a translator and mentor to this ‘Foreigner’ who she believes can really speak no English at all. Nan really steals the scenes with just that look she gives or that sarcastic and witty comeback for whatever situation she is in. She’s everything you’d expect a person like her to be and much charmingly more!
Jacob C. Head plays a reverend who seems to have more than ulterior motives in regards to Betty’s hotel and his fiancé Catherine. Jacob gives the wild eyed and almost intensely unpredictable performance as he negatively reacts to this new ‘Foreigner’ as a guest. His sharp quips with both Brian and Nan, along with the local leader of the pack Owen, will make you dislike him like no other antagonist before. (Spoilers: He’s the baddie!) Trust me, you’ll hysterically love disliking Jacob a lot!
Another standout performance came from the mentally challenged character called Ellard who was incredibly performed by Adam Simon Krist. Adam was so innocent with his quirky issues of reading and understanding things that the bond he develops with Charlie is downright heartwarming to watch. He has some wonderful enlightening moments that Adam just knows how to allow the empowerment that Charlie is giving him, completely shine through.
Getting the wildly obsessive, emotionally charged and just plain too amazing to watch nod is the performance of Kelly Huddleston as Catherine. Kelly plays everything from fiancé to newly pregnant mother-to-be with such a zest and intensity that her relationship with Jacob and developing relationship with Brian is so funny and yet as realistic as it gets on stage. You’ll end up cheering for some of her decisions she does make!
Now I must give a nod to the colorful and successfully creepy performance of Ian Patrick Williams who plays Owen, an almost gang leader by the end of the play but simply a pain in everyone’s side in the beginning. Patrick is the ‘hickiest’ hillbilly you're ever going to see on stage and really helps sell this wonderful ensemble of performers.
If you truly want to see when a wonderful script meets a talented cast and organized by a very clever and innovated director, you have to come and see this amazing production. I loved this play from beginning to end and if you want an evening of fun and real comic magic, for the whole family, then go see "The Foreigner" at the Crown City Theatre in North Hollywood. Check them out at www.CrownCityTheatre.com.
Pic 001 David Ghilardi, Nan Tepper, Brian Graves, Kelly Huddleston, Adam Simon Krist
Pic 002 – Jacob C Head, Ian Patrick Williams
Pic 003 Brian Graves