WAUKESHA - SummerStage in
Lapham Peak State Park opens its season with a lively production of one of Larry
Shue’s most popular plays, “The Foreigner.” Much has been written about
this talented playwright since his untimely plane crash in 1985. He joined the
Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 1977 as an actor and in-residence writer. His
small but memorable body of work has often been compared to that of Neil Simon.
They both write comedies that amuse but also elucidate some truth about mankind.
The setting is a fishing
lodge 100 miles south of Atlanta, Ga., where Sgt. Froggy LeSueur takes his
friend Charlie for a relaxing weekend. When Froggy has to leave Charlie in order
to perform his military duties, Charlie panics. Because he is very
stranger-phobic, having a conversation is a real struggle for him. He sees
himself as boring, unimaginative and hapless. Thus, to solve the problem Froggy
tells Betty, the lodge owner, that Charlie is a foreigner and speaks no English.
The deception leads to many of the complications and most of the humor of the
Also occupying the lodge are
Catherine Simms and her somewhat dull-witted brother Ellard. Catherine has
become unexpectedly pregnant by her fiancˇ, the Rev. David Lee. They plan to
marry as soon as he finishes some mysterious project he’s working on with a
rather shady, blustery character by the name of Owen Musser.
Catherine and Ellard have
recently inherited a large sum of money, but Catherine has until now withheld
Ellard’s portion and is waiting until she judges him to be mature enough to
handle such a sizable inheritance. Meanwhile the arrival of Charlie changes
everyone’s life: Catherine has discovered him to be a very attentive listener,
so she proceeds to tell him all her troubles; Ellard sets out to teach him
English; Betty thinks that by shouting at him, he can understand her; she also
believes that she can read his mind and is convinced that having
a foreigner around is very exciting.
Meanwhile, another plot is
brewing, unbeknownst to all but Charlie, because everyone speaks freely around
him, thinking that he can’t understand a word. It is ironic that in his
attempt to disappear into the shadows, he is becoming the center of attention, a
position that he is dumbfounded to learn that he enjoys.
You’re in for some
surprises in this one, and beneath all the humor, some serious themes emerge -
deception, courage, bigotry, adaptation, greed and the intricacies of language,
as well. But comedy is king in this play, and hardly a minute goes by that we
are not smiling about something.
A very adept cast and good
direction combine to bring Shue’s work to life. Ralph Garcia is wonderful as
Charlie as he transmigrates from a very insecure nerd into a clever, lovable
character. Ryan Schwartz is an absolutely delightful Ellard, and his sister
Catherine, played by Katie Krueger, is very animated as we watch her struggling
with her unplanned pregnancy and her lack of attention from her husband-to-be.
Doug Smedborn is a creepy
Owen Musser. He and James Boylan as the holy minister, who is even creepier, are
both well-portrayed. Dave Boxhorn and Sara Sarna who play Froggy and Betty are
also well- cast.
Director Diane Powell did a
good job at blocking and making sure everyone could be heard. In an outside
setting with some people with few clues regarding theater etiquette, hearing can
sometimes be a challenge.
All in all, we beat the rain
both Friday and Saturday evenings, which was lucky. If you’ve never visited
definitely worth a try. Its roster of plays and musical events is varied,
and the productions are well-done.
“The Foreigner” is
staged at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday at Lapham Peak State Park, located on
Highway C just south of Interstate 94. Patrons can walk or take a shuttle to the
theater, and are encouraged to bring their own chair or blanket. Food and drinks
can be brought or purchased at the theater. For tickets, visit