If laughter is the best medicine, then Larry Shue's play The Foreigner is guaranteed to cure what ails an audience. Clayton Community Theatre (CCT) will present the show starting Friday and continuing through April 29.
The play is set in a rustic fishing lodge in rural Georgia and focuses on Charlie Baker, a down-in-the-dumps British gent with a failing marriage. His friend, Staff Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur, wants to cheer him up and brings him to the lodge for a little rest and relaxation.
Charlie erupts into a near-panic at the thought of having to speak with strangers (it turns out he's painfully shy), so Froggy tells everyone that Charlie doesn't speak or understand English. This, Froggy hopes, will cause the others to leave Charlie alone.
Instead, the others speak freely in front of him and reveal many secrets, plots and nefarious schemes. They think Charlie can't understand a word they are saying. So Charlie plays along.
The question is: Will the mild-mannered hero thwart the schemes he overhears?
“This play is about theatre,” director Judy Yordon said. “Everyone is playing a role. It's about finding out who you are and accepting that.”
Yordon holds a doctorate in performance studies and has taught at the university level for 36 years. She is directing her fourth show in a row for CCT. She previously staged Prelude to a Kiss, Doubt and Reckless.
The director has worked with Foreigner actors to ensure their performances are not caricatures. But one attribute is even more challenging.
“Timing," Yordon said. "You can't teach it. Either somebody has it or they don't."
Jeffrey Dent, who plays Charlie, faced his own challenge.
“Learning Charlie's made-up language was a challenge,” Dent said. “He has to stand up and tell a story in this language.”
Dent previously appeared with CCT in last season's Reckless. In spite of the challenges, Charlie may be the perfect role for Dent: He's noticed there are similarities between the character and himself.
“It's interesting to note how Charlie and I are both so shy,” Dent said. “It's one of the reasons I went into theater. He finds his 'being' in a character he creates.”
As with most theater, even a farce such as The Foreigner, the play has an underlying serious message stemming from the personal and emotional journey each character makes.
“Charley is a catalyst,” Yordon said. “He comes into a place and makes everybody else better, and they make him better.”
Dent concurred: “It illustrates how a person can transform.”WHAT The Foreigner, by Larry Shue WHEN Friday through Sunday and April 27-29 WHERE Clayton Community Theatre, building, 6501 Clayton Rd. in TICKETS $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Reservations may be made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 314-721-9228. Tickets may be purchased by credit card at Brown Paper Tickets.