“The Foreigner” may have debuted off-Broadway in 1984, but its message is just as relevant, if not more so, in 2018.
The comedy, now playing through Aug. 5 at Murphys Creek Theatre, proves that laughter is universal — with no words required.
Written by Larry Shue, “The Foreigner” tells the story of Charlie, played with perfection by Sean M. Lewis, as a science fiction magazine proofreader who is awkward and lacks personality.
“Even idle conversation terrifies me,” he tells his friend Froggy.
Froggy — portrayed by Kirk Summers, who is a complete natural in his role despite this being his first theatrical performance — has taken Charlie to a resort-style lodge in Georgia to help Charlie get his mind off his crumbling marriage. (The lodge features an impressive set design by Micki Dambacher.)
To ease Charlie’s anxiety about interacting with others, Froggy tells the likable lodge owner Betty, played by Sharon Perras, that Charlie is a foreigner who can’t speak English.
The story takes off from there with Charlie learning all the secrets of the various characters coming and going from the lodge.
Director Maryann Curmi has assembled a stellar cast.
Curmi said sometimes people, such as Charlie, come into our lives at just the right moment and can change its course.
“I believe that’s what initially drew me into the story of ‘The Foreigner.’ How one person can change so many lives,” she wrote in the play’s program. “And I love how the path of each character’s journey goes on a bit of a detour because of this one person.”
Indeed, but maybe most importantly, the play shows the power of listening. Charlie does not judge. He does not offer advice. He simply listens.
In doing so, he helps bride-to-be Catherine, portrayed by Michelle Low, experience a personal transformation.
The play illustrates that language is not needed to communicate.
A highlight is the interaction between Charlie and Ellard, Catherine’s silly brother played by Kyle Mosses. Ellard teaches Charlie how to say different words in English (with a hilarious southern accent) followed by some clever wordplay.
Another standout moment is when Charlie is put on the spot to tell a story in his “native” made-up language.
Here Lewis shines as a cross between Robin Williams in “The Birdcage” and Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” character.
As Charlie helps change the other characters lives, he is boosted with confidence and becomes anything but boring.
Rev. David, played by Ben Adriano, and Owen, portrayed by Michael Crich, bring a dose of drama to this comedy.
While the play is set in rural Georgia and deals with racial prejudice in the south, parallels can easily be drawn to current world events.
The message is uplifting, however, and the play is reassuring as everyone gets what they deserve.
The cast and crew certainly deserved their standing ovation on opening night.
Be sure you meet “The Foreigner” now visiting Murphys through Aug. 5.
“The Foreigner” is performed at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Murphys Creek Theatre. For tickets, visit murphyscreektheatre.org or call (209) 728-8422.