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Aug. 4, 2005
Behind the Stage Door

Blazny, Blazny!


ARE YOU LAUGHING YET? IF YOU ARE, YOU'VE ALREADY seen North Coast Repertory Theatre's latest hit, The Foreigner, which received a standing ovation opening night anPhoto from the play "The Foreigner"d will probably receive many more before it closes in a mere 16 days.

Photo: Gavin Lyall as Charlie and Tania Jewel as Betty.

This treasure starts even before the lights go down, with sound effects that slowly build into a frog-drowning thunderstorm. Two men, Froggy LeSueur (Jonathan Moreno) and his incredibly shy friend Charlie Baker (Gavin Lyall) dash between the rain drops and dry off in Betty Meeks' (Tania Jewel) fishing lodge in rural Georgia. Froggy's a British demolition commando who comes over every year to help with American training. This year, he's commandeered his friend Charlie, a painfully shy proofreader for a science-fiction magazine, in the hopes the trip will do him some good. Moreno's nearly perfect Cockney accent and charming demeanor and Lyall's expressive face set up the situation. The audience starts laughing immediately as they realize the implications bound to develop when Froggy innocently decides to pass his friend off as an exotic foreigner who speaks no English.

As expected, Betty and the guests speak freely in front of him. Soon, Charlie is privy to all sorts of secrets. He knows that the little rich girl, Catherine Simms (Theresa Ireland), is pregnant, and doubts her relationship with the father, the smarmy and reptilian Reverend David Lee (Victor Howard). In rapid succession, Charlie learns that Howard's sidekick Owen Musser (Brian Walker) is a sick and dangerous man, that Catherine's little brother Ellard (Dmitry Tokarsky) has more on the ball than it seems and that Betty is about to lose her lodge to the evil machinations of the Reverend, Owen and the Ku Klux Klan.

Along the way, Charlie invents a personality and an oddball language while learning English at breakneck speed. Everyone tolerates him until the Reverend gets suspicious and Owen overreacts. Amazingly, speaking only a few words of English, Charlie, Betty, Ellard and Catherine vanquish the evil empire and Froggy reappears in a pyrotechnic blaze of glory as he explosively thwarts the evildoer's plans. You'll never stop laughing, from beginning to end.

Every member of the cast deserves praise and attention for the detail and depth of characterization they brought to the stage, as well as for their delight in how it was received on opening night. I enjoyed watching Ms. Ireland in her sixth show in a row at NCRT. A native of western Pennsylvania, she claims Humboldt as home while winning the affections of the local theater community for a string of stunning performances. Tokarsky has a difficult role in this piece, but brings to it such warmth of character and depth of performance energy that the audience was with him for every line.

Director Edward Olson whipped up this nearly perfect marriage of acting and stagecraft into the North Coast's most delightful comedy of the year assisted by Dianna Thiel (costumes), Dan Mullins (scene and lights), James Floss (sound), Marcia Hutson, Wanda Stapp and Ashley Hutson (properties and staging) and Sophia Paulekas (stage manager).

Reserve your tickets early; this show will sell out. Remember, NCRT does not reserve specific seats, so arrive early for the best views. The Foreigner runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 20 at 8 p.m., with one matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14. NCRT is located at 300 Fifth Street, Eureka, and has abundant street parking. Visit or call 442-NCRT for tickets and more information.



Seussical the Musical previews tonight, Thursday, Aug. 4, and opens officially tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 5, at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre. It runs Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 2 and Thursdays, Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, at 8 p.m. Matinees start at 2 p.m. on three Sundays, Aug. 14, 21 and 28, and closing day Saturday, Sept. 3. Seussical features the imaginative world of Dr. Seuss in a musical written by the Tony Award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The score includes all sorts of contemporary music and promises to delight all ages. For tickets and more information, visit or call 786-LIVE.



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