Village Theatre’s ‘Foreigner’ feels like an old friend

January 28, 2014

By David Hayes

Much of the success of Village Theatre’s latest production, “The Foreigner,” rides on the shoulders of actor Erik Gratton. Or, dare I say, his face?

When he first shuffles on set, Gratton must be channeling Droopy from the 1940s MGM cartoons. That he can maintain that hang-dog look while co-star Patrick Phillips prattles on, laying the background for the plot, lets the audience know they’re in for something special.

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre Erik Gratton (left, as Charlie) listens in on a conversation between Jonathan Crimeni (Reverend David) and Angela DiMarco (Catherine) in a scene from the Village Theatre production of ‘The Foreigner.’

By Tracy Martin/Village Theatre
Erik Gratton (left, as Charlie) listens in on a conversation between Jonathan Crimeni (Reverend David) and Angela DiMarco (Catherine) in a scene from the Village Theatre production of ‘The Foreigner.’

In a play, written by Larry Shue, filled with over-the-top characters from the early ’80s South, Gratton’s interaction with them hinges upon his successful take of a man of a thousand faces.

Gratton plays depressed Charlie Baker, who has accompanied British Army buddy Froggy LeSueur to Georgia to get away from his dying, philandering wife. Not allowed on base while he trains with the Americans in bomb making, Froggy plans to drop Charlie off at the nearby fishing lodge for some rest and relaxation. His plan is scuttled when Charlie’s depression escalates to an anxiety panic attack at the thought of being left with the locals. Froggy amends his plan, telling lodge proprietor Betty (Sharva Maynard) that Charlie’s a foreigner who can’t speak English.

Feigning incomprehension allows Charlie to sit ignored as others scheme or become the perfect listening post for the distraught to confess their insecurities.

At first reluctant in his role, Charlie grows into the ruse as he interacts more with the locals. There’s the Southern belle Catherine (Angela Dimarco), her suitor Reverend David Marshall Lee (Jonathan Crimeni), her slow brother Ellard (Anthony Lee Phillips) and the redneck Owen (Eric Ray Anderson).

Every character is loud and bombastic, except Ellard, who’s dimwitted but kind hearted, in well-acted, exaggerated Southern stereotypes. But it is Gratton’s interaction with each that glues them all together. His facial contortions rival Jim Carey during his best years on “In Living Color.”

When Gratton escalates his facial expressions to full body gyrations, the audience has been hooked.

The best part of “The Foreigner” is it’s never predictable. It just may contain the funniest retelling of Little Red Riding Hood you’ll ever hear.

The two-act play takes place entirely in the great room of a fishing lodge. Scenic designer Matthew Smucker and his team have crafted a beautiful setting that is a character itself.

So, don’t be a stranger, and be sure to let this “Foreigner” in to your heart.

 

If you go
‘The Foreigner’
Through March 2
Village Theatre
Francis J. Gaudette Theatre
4303 Front St. N.
4392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org

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