Pin It

Louder than Words 

Why everyone should be talking about Interplayers' production of The Foreigner

click to enlarge Jon Lutyens (right) anchors a stellar cast in Interplayers' production of The Foreigner. - HAMILTON STUDIOS
  • Hamilton Studios
  • Jon Lutyens (right) anchors a stellar cast in Interplayers' production of The Foreigner.

There's a certain vulnerability that comes with opening your mouth. Hence our Miranda rights, or the memorable World War II adage, "Loose lips sink ships." And then there's the familiar quote, apocryphally attributed to Abe Lincoln, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

Charlie Baker, the protagonist in Interplayers' production of The Foreigner, is all too aware of that kind of vulnerability. When the retiring Englishman (Jon Lutyens) arrives at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia, he confides to his old Royal Army buddy "Froggy" (Patrick Treadway, with an accent from the Dick Van Dyke School of Cockney) that he'd rather not talk to anyone — not merely out of grief for his dying wife back home, but also because he fears himself to be a crashing bore. It's his acute lack of personality, he explains with hand-wringing demureness, that is likely to blame for his wife's chronic infidelities.

Froggy addresses both concerns by telling the provincial caretaker, Betty Meeks (Laurel Paxton), that Charlie is a foreigner who speaks and understands no English. She responds, as per expectation, by communicating with her new guest s-l-ow-ly and LOUDLY. Wary of offending, Charlie ends up encouraging her by affecting an uncomprehending idiot grin.

The other guests, each as ludicrously corn-fed as Betty, have their own ways of interacting with the foreigner. Catherine Simms (Ana Gregoire), a recent debutante and fiancée of Reverend David Marshall Lee (Zachary Magan), treats Charlie as the ideal confidant. Her simpleminded brother, Ellard (Phoenix Tage), takes a pedagogical, almost paternal role toward him. And belligerent redneck Owen Musser (Jonah Weston) contemptuously regards Charlie as a sad curiosity.

Act one draws on the power of reticence. The less Charlie offers of himself, the more the others attribute to him. What little he does offer, aside from a stilted, "Thank you," consists of physical comedy: hesitant nods, bemused eyebrows, childlike smiles, an uncomfortable grimace. In this regard, Lutyens is diminished somewhat by the muted colors of his clothes, his fair complexion, even his (intentional) charisma deficiency. He merges with set designer Aaron Dyszelski's exquisite cabin interior like another pair of trophy antlers. That might complement his fly-on-the-wall status, but without his features being better defined à la silent film, it makes it harder for Lutyens to project the requisite Chaplinesque expressions.

Consequently the first act has a few lulls; it's redeemed primarily by the electrifying menace of Weston's Owen and Tage's stooped, obliging Ellard, whose monkey-see, monkey-do shtick with Charlie gives Lutyens the most to work with.

With farces and musicals, post-intermission acts tend to suffer from being a protracted (or, conversely, cursory) and predictable tying-up of the various loose ends introduced before the break. That's not the case here; The Foreigner's second act is wonderfully solid. As Charlie comes out of his shell and reconciles himself with the advantages as well as the helplessness of his position, the comedy flourishes along with the suspense. A few gags are mined for the very last titter, but in general the implausibility never tips over into impossibility.

At the same time, Gregoire effectively shifts her character from spoiled, foot-stomping belle to a confident young woman and credible romantic interest. Magan starts to reveal an unexpectedly sinister side, and Weston transforms into something unhinged and terrifying.

The sublime irony of Larry Shue's script is that Owen, and to some extent David, ultimately betrays himself through unnecessary talk, conveniently saving Charlie the awkwardness of having to confess his own ruse. Another one of the script's strengths is its quiet breadcrumb trail of plot points. Though some of the broader turns of events are painted on a barn wall, there is seemingly throwaway dialogue that becomes relevant later.

Shue's clever and rounded script, faultless lighting and sets, some outstanding cast performances and Carrie Morgan's able direction make this production one of the strongest in what's been a very robust Interplayers season. ♦

The Foreigner • Through June 28: Thu-Sat, 7:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm • $28 ($22 seniors, active military; $12 students) • Interplayers • 174 S. Howard • • 455-7529

  • Pin It

Speaking of Culture, Theater

  • Time is of the Essence
  • Time is of the Essence

    The works on display in the Jundt Museum's newest exhibition won't be around forever
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Learning 
to Stand 
Up Again
  • Learning to Stand Up Again

    Marc Maron hits up Spokane for the first time, returning to his stand-up roots
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Animal Instincts
  • Animal Instincts

    The MAC brings together art and the wild
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • The Way
  • The Way

    For pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago trail, the journey never ends
    • Jul 21, 2016

    A new game of old characters transfixes the nation, and Spokane
    • Jul 21, 2016

    A welcome return, monstrous comic and disastrous novel
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
CdA Summer Theatre: The Music Man

CdA Summer Theatre: The Music Man @ Kroc Center

Thursdays-Sundays, 7:30-10 p.m. Continues through July 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by E.J. Iannelli

  • Something Fishy
  • Something Fishy

    Mermaids, hucksters and more mermaids await audiences looking to beat the heat at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre
    • Jun 23, 2016

    Summer Guide 2016
    • Jun 16, 2016
  • THEATER | 

    Midtown Coeur d'Alene might make for a nice new home
    • May 26, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Short Order

    A new food truck on the scene serves up specialty burgers and fries in the Shadle Park area
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Let the Wanderlust Win

    Why you shouldn't let anything hold you back from traveling
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation