Charlie Baker is far from a people person. Yet despite his crippling shyness, his close friend has decided to give him a “vacation” in a personalized torture chamber - a cabin full of strangers with whom he will be forced to exchange introductions, give pleasantries, and most terribly of all, respond to during conversation.
Just when this ordeal seems too much for Charlie to handle, an alarmingly perfect opportunity presents itself. By introducing Charlie as a foreigner who doesn’t speak a word of English, Charlie is no longer required to talk at all. However, when his exotic flair becomes the focus of the lodge, Charlie’s struggle to maintain his façade grows more involved than he ever planned it to be.
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program's April presentation of “The Foreigner” was fraught with hilarious antics from start to finish.
Written by the American playwright Larry Shue, “The Foreigner” premiered off-Broadway in 1984 with a successful run matching his other works, such as “The Nerd.” Since then, “The Foreigner” has enjoyed the status as a staple of community and high school theatre, garnering hundreds of performances, including an off-Broadway revival in 2004.
The story follows Charlie as he learns the inner workings of a bed-and-breakfast lodge in rural Georgia and the conspiracies that infest it, all while continuously expanding his made-up culture into an all-encompassing, outlandish pretense.
Undertaking an incredibly challenging task, student John Ponder White assumed the role of director. Fulfilling his responsibility completely without any adult assistance, White made strong choices and aptly interpreted the play. By casting Kamau Mitchell, an African-American, as Charlie, White created a more harrowing journey for the titular character — facing not only xenophobia from the locals but also presenting an accurate portrayal of the infamous racism of the Ku Klux Klan.
White’s stagings made use of the Black Box setting, utilizing all parts of the acting area with a suitable amount of movement. The sets were brought to fruition with the utmost frugality, creating the lodge’s hunter-green sitting room, complete with country-style rockers and a topographical map of Georgia. Cost: $6.30.
As Charlie, Mitchell capitalized on the physical comedy his role offered in the first act and proved his ability for vocal variety in the second. As a near-silent character for half of the play, Mitchell’s subtle reactions and uproarious facial expressions made him stand out in nearly every scene. As he “learned” English, Mitchell’s phony accent became more prevalent, easily switching between the roles of a beleaguered Englishman and naïve foreigner. With unmatched expressiveness in face and body, Mitchell’s performance hit high points in highly farcical moments while also portraying a clear dramatic progression from a shrewd stranger to a falsely foreign raconteur.
Shelly Smout, as Betty Meeks, took on age well, completely encapsulating her condescending yet affectionate character. As Froggy LeSuer, Charlie Mai employed a thick cockney accent and created an amusing chemistry with Charlie. With his portrayal of the “slow” Ellard Sims, Rhys Davis tastefully and accurately presented a character with a limited mental capacity, never overacting. This delicate part required both dramatic control and comedic nuance.
Exploring identity, insecurity and cultural acceptance with a familiar comedy, “The Foreigner” at H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program left none feeling out of place, with the only truly foreign concept being hate or intolerance.
Cappies is a critics and awards program for high school theater. In this program, high school students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools and write reviews for local newspapers. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.