Review: The Foreigner

Saturday evening I attended the first show in Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre’s 2010 season: The Foreigner. This Indianapolis theatre offers a whole experience: dinner and solid Indianapolis entertainment. There really is nothing like sipping coffee through the first act of a Beef and Boards show and being served dessert at intermission. Plus, the latest show on the Beef and Boards stage offers comedy with a message. Directed by Eddie Curry and starring some favorite Indianapolis performing arts faces, The Foreigner is a fun adventure that takes one man beyond his own comfort boundaries.

Charlie Baker (Jeff Stockberger) is a proper Englishman whose reputation for being dull is only exceeded by his own shyness. In an effort to escape a troubling situation back home, his good friend Froggy LaSueur (Ty Stover) takes Charlie to a Georgia inn for some southern hospitality. When Charlie wishes to go through the weekend without having to speak to anyone, Froggy makes his friend’s dream come true with one little white lie: Charlie is a foreigner who cannot speak or understand English. The tenants take this opportunity to spill their guts to Charlie. But when he hears a few things he ought not to, Charlie makes it his mission to save the day.

This play is all about Charlie Baker, a difficult role when you consider he is largely robbed of speech, yet on stage almost the whole play. I do not envy any actor set with this challenge, or any director searching out the right guy. But Eddie Curry knew what he was doing when he put Jeff Stockberger in the drivers seat for this play. Stockberger hits it out of the park as he relies on physicality and facial expressions to move the play forward. He has the rare ability to bring the audience to his level and conveys with extreme clarity the motivations and goals of Charlie Baker without seeming to give up the hoax to surrounding characters. Supported by an extremely talented cast, Stockberger soars as the foreigner ruled by a false language barrier.

Kate Braun plays the owner of the Georgia inn, Betty Meeks. Braun is lovely as the simple, sweet, southern spoon collector. Instantly lovable as she gallivants around stage in green galoshes, Braun channels the physicality and quirkiness of Lily Tomlin. Though Stockberger is the true star of The Foreigner, Braun is by far my favorite memory from this play. David Purdy gives an honest performance as the simple minded Ellard, whose intelligence is put into question due to a wicked plan. Purdy, who never competes for laughs, pairs perfectly with Stockberger, whose character is given most of the funny material. It is a joy to watch the two share the stage together.

Sarah Hund, as the ingenue Catherine Simms, gives a sweet performance. As the primary victim of her fiances evil plan, Catherine Simms presents one of the most challenging parts of comedy: being the straight-man. Unfortunately, at times Hund gets carried away with the overall air of hilarity that permeates the show. She fails to establish believable stakes. In going for the laugh at times when it is important for the audience to understand the gravity of her situation, she undercuts a few important plot points. However, her sweetness carries her to the end of the play, and in the scenes prior to the climatic point, she is able to find moments of honesty. Hund is not the only cast member who runs into this problem at times. But because the cast maintains a strong sense of ensemble overall, they are almost entirely forgiven.

Having never seen or read The Foreigner prior to attending Saturday nights performance, I was shocked at the journey I was ultimately taken on. Born in Rhode Island and raised in Alabama, seeing Klan costumes on stage touches an uncomfortable chord with me that would have jarred me out of laughter. Luckily, Eddie Curry’s in-tune direction from start to finish prepared me for the final scenes. In examining the idea of prejudice through laughter, Charlie Baker as “the foreigner” becomes a hero for all victims of hate crimes. Curry gently nudges his audience into seeing through their own prejudices, deftly creating comedy with a message.

For more information about this Indianapolis art event at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, visit their official website. If you love Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, now is the time to sign up for memberships, which include great two for one deals on shows all year. Stay tuned to Fun City for all the latest information on fun things to do in Indianapolis. Indianapolis entertainment comes to life here! Check out our Indianapolis events and Indianapolis attractions as you search out more fun in the Circle City.

The Foreigner
Now through February 7, 2010

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

9301 Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268