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Aug. 4, 2005
by ELLIN BELTZ
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 and
will probably receive many more before it closes in a mere 16
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
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
www.ncrt.net or call 442-NCRT for tickets and more information.
HORTON SET TO HATCH
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 www.ferndale-rep.org or call 786-LIVE.
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