Erla Faye Forsyth, Peter Carlone, John Voth, Kaitlin Williams

Pacific Theatre opened their 30th season with the much loved and often remounted 1983 Larry Shue play The Foreigner to much positive effect. For folks wanting some light hearted escapist fare, they get that in spades. The Saturday night audience laughed long and loudly.

On the surface of things, you have your standard loser propelled forward by circumstances mostly beyond his control. When at last, push comes to shove, he shoves back. Our new hero has found redemption and the audience goes home happy after rewarding the production with a standing ovation.

Charlie Baker is in need of a rest. His ailing wife has cheated on him and work is not going so well either. Charlie’s friend Froggy invites him to a Georgia fishing retreat to refresh. Charlie, feeling uncomfortable and inadequate in the presence of others, feigns a disguise and elects to be a non-anglophone Foreigner.

John Voth
[John Voth]

The play’s other main characters are soon introduced. First we meet the parochial but well-meaning inn owner Betty Meeks. Unlucky sweet young thing Catherine Simms is now engaged to and carrying the child of the Reverend David Marshall Lee. Next up is the mean-minded county inspector Owen Musser. Finally in pops Ellard Simms an amiable but slow-witted brother of Catherine. Not surprisingly, not all is as it first seems. After much interplay the rather convoluted plot works itself quite nicely to conclude with a bang. A big one at that.

How each character reacts to The Foreigner is what sets the play in motion and moves it forward. In the end, nefarious and insidious evil doers are revealed and thwarted. The innocent are saved and rewarded.

The non-standard configuration of the Pacific Theatre presents quite a challenge to any production company and director Evan Frayne, for the most part, is able to keep eyes focused on the players as the trap is set and then sprung.

Lauchlin Johnston’s set design cleverly optimizes every inch of the space provided. The look and feel of his vision look and feel just right. As well, the lighting creates the desired mood and the limited soundscape conjures up images of the rural south.

The role of Charlie involves a sweet gentleness that cannot be taught in acting school. Even when appalling aspects of the plot become known, unkindness may not be revealed. Charlie has to put things right and in just the right way. Actor John Voth rises to the challenge in an endearing performance. The audience loved him.

Mack Gordon (the Reverend) has to walk that tightrope of being choice husband material while at the same time being believable as a dirty double dealer. Byron Noble as Owen has the more traditional role of the southern cracker slimeball. Both actors succeeded beautifully in their characterizations. On a minor note, Mr. Gordon often strays too far from his intended Georgian drawl.

Kaitlin Williams (Catherine) provides the eye candy but she also gets to show her acting chops to great effect. She was convincing as both b*tch and ingenue before morphing into a more likable damsel in distress. It is easy to see how Charlie falls forward into his role of protector. Peter Carlone of Peter N’ Chris sketch comedy fame is perfect as the dull but huggable Ellard.

Erla Faye Forsyth, Ryan Scramstad
[Erla Faye Forsyth, Ryan Scramstad]

Ryan Scramstad (Froggy) and Erla Faye Forsyth (Betty) particularly impressed this reviewer. Mr. Scramstad has to be big and brash to contrast the milquetoast Charlie. He was all of that and funny too. Ms. Forsyth’s comic timing was able to make the most of the lines given to her even when they weren’t necessarily all that humorous.

All that said, the story does raise some serious issues. How should we treat folks unlike ourselves: with indulgence, equanimity, charity, indifference, intolerance? How do our actions motivate other’s reactions? What would it take to make us betray a loved one? Does the Ku Klux Klan have a legitimate case to make and a cause to defend? Many a cup of coffee or glass of wine will have to be raised to reach any sort of consensus.

Enjoy The Foreigner on whatever level you wish. Enjoy it you will. The Foreigner continues at the Pacific Theatre through October 12.

All photos by Ron Reed.

About Our Contributor Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini enjoys Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene and has taken in many productions over the years. He holds a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. Larry is financially involved with the film Eadweard Muybridge, produced by Josh Epstein, directed by Kyle Rideout, and starring Michael Eklund.

1 Comment

  • Pingback by The Foreigner | textingthecity — February 22, 2015 @ 4:59 pm

    […] he appears uptight and concerned with his ailing yet cheating wife. I learned a great word from this review of the play: “milquetoast.” It means “a person who is tired or submissive.” […]

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