A Side-Splitting Comedy by MU Students

The Foreigner, Monmouth University’s play for the fall semester, opened on Friday, November 16. With a book by the deceased Larry Shue and direction by theatre department chair Dr. John Burke, The Foreigner is a side-splitting show that anybody,  can find a lot of laughs in.

“It was fantastic,” said Kevin Long, a junior and music industry major. “Just fantastic.”

The Foreigner takes place at a fishing lodge in Tilghman County, Georgia, in “the recent past” (the time period the set and costumes put in my mind was the mid 1980s). In it, Charlie Baker (Henry O. Siebecker) is a simple science fiction proofreader visiting his British friend, Staff Sargent “Froggy” LeSueur (Bryan Haring). Charlie is upset that his unfaithful wife may be dying in the hospital and tells Froggy that he wishes to speak to nobody because of an anxiety problem. As a result, Froggy decides to tell the owner of the lodge, Betty Meeks (Taylor Bogan), that Charlie is a foreigner from a distant country. Betty, who has never travelled, is eager to have the exotic Charlie, who does not speak a word of English, in her home.

 As a result of his assumed obliviousness, the lodge patrons and their friends discuss all sorts of personal matters in front of Charlie, allowing him to be, for the first act at least, a silent window through which the audience learns the subplots and setting of the play.

We learn that the other people living in the lodge are Catherine Simms (Zoe Bulitt), a wealthy but bored Southern debutante, her younger sister Ellie May Simms (Jamee Shea), who is assumed to be slow, and the shady Reverend David Marshall Lee (Brandon Wiener), who is engaged to Catherine. Often visiting is David’s friend from town, the equally shady Owen Musser (Guy Battaglia), who reveals himself as one of the primary antagonists of the show.

The Foreigner, while bearing small parts of a dramatic story, is a comedy.   “Comedy demands a lot of timing,” Burke says, “and takes a lot more work than people think to be able to develop the comic timing that suits each one of the characters and jokes.”

The whole show had audience members audibly laughing. Myself, along with the friends I attended the show with, were in stitches for the majority of the second act. Each cast member gave a wonderful performance, each with a different brand of comic timing that Burke was talking about.

Bogan convinced me that Betty Meeks was a simple woman suffering from cabin fever, eager to experience the outside world through conversing with a man that, to her at least, obviously had no idea what she was talking about. Bulitt gave a wonderful performance as the cold and bitter young woman giving up her youth who gradually loses her ice queen demeanor and becomes an endearing character. Shea wonderfully performed a role as a slow young girl with a heart of gold. She gets extra praise from me, considering that the role she plays was written for a male – the script of the show has the name of the character as “Ellard Simms,” and the lines written for a young man.

Wiener plays the weasely Reverend very well, and Battaglia does an excellent job at playing an unintelligent bigot. Haring’s British accent is impeccable, and his delivery is fantastic.

The highlight of the show was, without a doubt, Siebecker. He has performed in many Theatre Department shows – the last time I saw him was as Philip in 2010’s The Shape of Things – combines all of the aspects of a great comedic actor into his performance. As the eponymous character, Siebecker’s Charlie keeps the show moving through its various scenes, and provides the vast majority of the show’s many laughs.

I recommend any student looking for a laugh or even just something to do on a weeknight besides the usual routine make their way to Woods Theatre to see this show – I promise that it is worth the time. The Foreigner will run at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre until December 1.