It was an especially lovely spring day in Texas, and thus a perfect time for The Woodlands campus of Montgomery College to have its ”Taste of the Arts” celebration under the sponsorship of Conservatory Senior Living. Guests were treated to a sumptuous buffet provided by Catering Delights, floral decorations from Rainforest Flowers, and some of the university’s finest musicians provided musical ambiance while gallery visitors enjoyed the extraordinary and multi-colored glass artistry on display in the form of lamps, vases and exquisite wall designs, some of which were valued at more than $8,000. But that was not all. The curtain was about to go up on a free preview of the Theatre Department’s new production of Larry Shue’s often hilarious comedy, ”The Foreigner.” Ably directed by Chase Waites, it would be the perfect end to a wonderful evening of the arts.
The first thing that the audience sees is the striking set design of the multi-talented Mr. Waites. Warm (with lighting designs from Cooper McClain), and richly detailed, it beautifully depicts the rustic fishing lodge resort of Betty Meeks (played very much for laughs by Grace McDaniel). We next meet Froggy LeSueur (Richard ”Rick’ Sellers, who also doubles as the show’s Assistant Director), and Charlie Baker (Justyn Reed in an uproarious performance). Charlie is close to a breakdown over the perhaps terminal illness of his hospitalized wife. Froggy has arranged for Charlie to have a few days getting away from his stress here at the lodge. Because Charlie really wants no interaction with people at the lodge, Froggy makes out that Charlie is a foreigner who does not speak or understand English. Therein lies the making of the comic mayhem that will follow. Others at the lodge include Rev. David Lee (Trent Hooker as a minister who may be up to no good), Lee’s pregnant fiancee, Catherine, (a pleasant performance from Brittany Miles), Lee’s sinister and temperamental pal, Owen, (Luke Rocher), and we have still another hilarious turn from David Ubel as Catherine’s dim-witted brother, Ellard. (As Catherine describes him: ”You couldn’t catch a chipmunk if it had four broken legs and was glued to the palm of your hand!”) Timothy Stinnett rounds out the fine cast with a brief appearance as a ”townsperson.”
When at its best, the play is a first-rate farce. Miss McDaniel, reminding one a bit of Edith Bunker with her characterization’s shrill voice and hunched body language, does plenty to advance the cause as the ditzy owner of the lodge. Mr. Ubel gives a subtle, yet riotous performance as an affectionate half-wit who becomes the foreigner’s ”teacher,” explaining things like the correct pronunciation of what he thinks are the two syllables in the word ”fork!” Meanwhile, Mr. Reed is a constant scene-stealer, milking the nonsense at every opportunity as Charlie continues pretending the only thing he can say in English is, ”Thank-you.” He is at his best when deliberately infuriating Owen, and don’t miss his extended pantomime segment that brings down the house.
There are moments when the humor sags a bit, and not every word spoken on the stage is heard, as eager young actors race their lines or work too hard on accents. But sound designs from Timothy Walker work well, (even in a thunderstorm), and costumes were reliably designed by Macy Perrone. And just what are Owen and the Reverend Lee up to? You’ll have to buy a ticket to find out!
The Foreigner continues on the Mainstage (D100) of Montgomery College-The Woodlands through April 21st. Performances are today at 2 p.m. and April 19-21 at 7:30 p.m., with General Admission tickets $10, Seniors $7, Students/Faculty/Staff $5. For tickets or information contact Amy Cooper at 936-273-7021 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
(The Courier 4.15.07)