Theatre Information

HB Woodlawn Secondary Program The Foreigner

By • May 3rd, 2012 • Category: Cappies, Virginia

For Charlie Baker, friendly conversation has always been something of a foreign concept. He is positively petrified by small talk, absolutely awful at idle chatter, and utterly upset by all personal inquiries. So when he finds himself stuck in an unfamiliar inn far from home, his best friend concocts a new persona for Charlie to save him from a nightmarish week of nonstop discourse: a foreigner who doesn’t know a word of English. HB Woodlawn Secondary Program proved that actions speak louder than words in their uproarious production of The Foreigner.

The Foreigner was written by Larry Shue and opened off-Broadway in 1984, running for 686 performances. The play is the story of Charlie Baker, a painfully shy traveler who pretends to be foreign to avoid having to talk to any of the other visitors at a Georgia guest house. But when Charlie’s disguise makes him privy to the most lurid secrets of the town, he has to speak up in order to save the kind-hearted people he has grown to love.

As the titular character, Kamau Mitchell proved himself to be a veritable comedic virtuoso. His mostly silent role demanded nothing short of impeccable physicality, and he delivered it every instant he was onstage, with superb facial reactions that conveyed sincere emotion without a sound. He had the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire evening, drawing hysterical laughter with just a flick of his eye or a twist of his mouth. However, when Mitchell combined his prodigious pantomime skills with his under-utilized vocal talents, he created the play’s most memorable scene. Faced with the monumental task of telling a story entirely in gibberish, Mitchell produced a side-splitting masterpiece which had the audience screaming with laughter.

The colorful cast of supporting characters enhanced the ridiculous situational comedy of The Foreigner. Shelby Smout was charmingly ignorant as Betty Meeks, the owner of the Georgia fishing lodge where Charlie is staying. Smout was not afraid of going over the top in her performance, and her absurd antics and misunderstandings set up Charlie for priceless reactions. Rhys Davis played Ellard, the slow neighborhood boy who becomes Charlie’s English tutor, with believable simplicity and innocence that was alternately heart-warming and ludicrous. Another standout was Charlie Mai, who brought boundless energy to the role of Froggy LeSeur, Charlie’s best friend. Mai’s exaggerated portrayal of the military man was perfectly appropriate for the farcical humor of the play. His scenes with Charlie were practically bursting with vivacity and comedic zeal.

The tech elements of the production were full of excellent ideas and effort. Student John Ponder White deserves congratulations for his directorial achievements, particularly in his attention to detail in staging the mannerisms of the actors. The lighting crew was also noteworthy for creating an admirably realistic thunderstorm during the opening scene, helping to establish the location decisively in the minds of the audience.

Words often fail to capture the simple truth of pure emotions. The barriers of language can divide people from each other, but HB Woodlawn Secondary Program proved that laughter is a universal tongue that needs no translation in their hilarious production of The Foreigner.

by Madelyn Paquette of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Shelby Smout and Charlie Mai Kamau Mitchell
Shelby Smout and Charlie Mai
Kamau Mitchell
Kamau Mitchell, Charlie Mai and Rhys Davis Leora Lihach, Shelby Smout and Kamau Mitchell
Kamau Mitchell, Charlie Mai and Rhys Davis
Leora Lihach, Shelby Smout and Kamau Mitchell

Photos by Zoe Miller

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