All Charlie Baker wants is some peace and quiet — from his humdrum London desk job, his dying wife, and his own demons. But when Froggy LeSueur, an English military type still with the barest whiff of colonialism about him, brings the staid British bore on a three-day job 100 miles south of Atlanta, a mishmash of mushmouth and cultural clashes ensues, with jaw-hurting hilarity.
Froggy, played with gusto by Terry Brockbank, only wants his friend Charlie to restiffen his upper lip on an annual work-related sojourn Froggy makes across the pond. But Charlie (Matthew Conlon) only wants to be left alone, so Froggy tells the others in the backwoods bed-and-breakfast that Charlie cannot speak a word of English – he’s a “foreigner.”
Then Froggy leaves for his military lectures and “to blow up a mountain,” and Charlie is left with the Widow Meeks, a scheming reverend, the reverend’s ex-debutante fiancée and possibly idiot brother, and an evil local official who wants to take over the widow’s home and make it ground zero for the white-sheet crowd.
This isn’t even giving away the best plot lines in the late Larry Shue’s hilarious hit, which is all laughs from start to finish.
What greets the audience first is another stellar set by Sean Marbury. There is no doubt that this is a well-loved and well-used lodge, complete with stuffed animal heads and plaid living room set. Sebastian Paczynski’s lighting conjures the Spanish moss hanging from the trees outside and the mist on the lake.
Sarah Hunnewell directs deftly, with some moments that are picture-perfect. Diane Marbury as the widow and owner of the cabin rules her roost, Joe Pallister vacillates between unctuous and nefarious as the soon-to-be-wed cleric, Krista Kurtzberg and Ben Schnickel are wonderful additions to the play as the sister and brother who stand to inherit a meaty fortune, and James Ewing is suitably hateful as the crazy cracker.
But Mr. Conlon, who has trod the East End boards and beyond for many a year, gives a performance of such magnitude that this should forever be considered his role. From a panic-stricken and self-absorbed clerk to the exotic “foreigner” who amuses and entertains the cabin-dwellers, often in pantomime, Mr. Conlon offers a transformation of character that is as broad as it is believable.
There are many short-and-sweet messages contained within this topsy-turvy world, where idiots are teachers, blonde ingenues are more than they appear, crazy seems sane, and sane is boring. The Hampton Theatre Company continues its steady season by hitting one out of the park. With a PG-13 rating for mild swearing, this is a family-friendly show, and teens and young adults alike should be gently encouraged to see a live production every bit as amusing as a sitcom episode.
“The Foreigner” continues through March 30, with a possible extension through April 6.