“The Foreigner”, will keep you in stitches

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“The Foreigner” written by Larry Shue and presented at the Three Hills Arts Academy, under the Direction of Floyd Cotton, will keep you in stitches.

It was entertaining to hear the director himself guffawing during the performance and this was after sitting through the several rehearsals and two shows.

The play is presented as a comedy, and the setting and plot certainly lends themselves to some very comic situations and dialogue.

Imagine, if you will, an extremely shy or heretofore extreme introvert. But he is a very well read Englishman who has been for years a proof-reader of a science fiction magazine. Now transplant him to a rural Georgia fishing lodge among total strangers. How can his fear of speaking or interacting be explained without appearing that he is just plain rude?

Well, what if he were thought to be a “foreigner” who could neither understand nor speak English?

What if, among the people who gather at the lodge, there should be a widowed owner in danger of losing the property? What if there were a young couple not yet married who are sharing some secrets and then some characters involved in what might be a shady deal?

What if, in the midst of this setting, there are some rather strong opinions about the place of foreigners in a place where they are not “welcome” and there are those who could stir up trouble?

What if, even though the setting is presented as being 1960s or 70s, some of the dialogue sounds very similar to some of the rhetoric coming to us from recent political rallies south of the 49th parallel?

The “foreigner” (Charlie Baker) is played by Jonathan Thiessen who has only recently made his debut on stage as an actor. Perhaps because of the “transformation” of the stage character, the audience might be “amazed” that this person can be so into the part, and a “star” practically from the word go. He has his character down perfectly and so much of the comedy is that he never appears to be acting “funny” or to be a “comedian”, although he exhibits what would be the wit and dry humour/sarcasm, often identified with the British.

The whole play moves along at a very fast pace and the exchanges are very well timed and really are delivered with no sense of “remembering lines to speak” but seem quite natural for each of the characters.

Joshua Laplante assumes the role of the British military friend of Charlie and the one responsible for “getting him into this situation”. From the first utterance until the end, I was impressed with his, and all the others as well, as to how very convincingly they maintained their “accents”. I couldn’t say that they were ever “authentic” to the point that a native could identify what particular region they would have been from, but we would know that they were not “Albertans”.

Mary-Ann Bergen, playing the Lodge owner, Betty Meeks, was delightful in her exuberance. We have seen her in previous presentations, but in “The Foreigner” she definitely shone as a “co-star”.

Dylan Burden as the Reverend David Marshall Lee played a very cool (and calculating) “preacher man” and I think did so with great balance, so that we see only revealed what we should find out about him, as the story unfolds.

Jordana Reed as Catherine Simms, heiress to a large amount of money, and the fiancé of the “Reverend” has been “acting for 11 years” and this experience shows in her performance.

Ken McDonald shines as one of those “bad guys” that the audience will love to hate. Ken last acted in “The Beauty and the Beast” and says of his role as Owen Musser that this is his biggest role that he has ever had, and that he is “excited to play a character quite the opposite of his normal self.”

It is probably no accident that Ken has been shaped to give us what we probably imagine as the stereotypical “redneck” and he as Owen applies the term “cracker” to himself.

Max Harback, takes on the role of Ellard Simms, (brother to Catherine) and I think “wins the heart” of the audience as he plays so well the poor, innocent dupe or victim as it were. He too is a veteran of the stage. He is a grade 11 student at PCA but has done nine shows with the Arts Academy.

Brad Luijkx and Tyler McLim we might say are “under cover” persons, and make what might be considered “cameo appearances”.

There are a few other veterans involved in this production, but they don’t appear on the stage. (This time.)

Brad Harback has teamed up with Director Floyd Cotton and is the Assistant Director.

The beautiful set design - almost makes one envious to actually own it - and construction, as well as being stage manager comes under Cherie Laplante.

Darta Thiessen came up with the costumes. Josie Belt was responsible for the Hair stylings and make-up.

Light and sound management is being superbly handled by Adam Luijkx.

Only a limited number of performances remain. Friday and Saturday have 7:00 pm shows and Saturday and Sunday have a matinee performance at 2:00 pm.

A reminder that because of subject detail and some “cussing” the show is declared “Not suitable for children”.