By: [author 7]
The Players Club of Swarthmore began its centennial Main Stage season, its 756th production, with Larry Shue’s comedy, THE FOREIGNER. According to the program’s Director Notes, when this show opened off-Broadway, the audiences loved it, but the critics were unimpressed. History never repeats itself, but it can sometimes sound like it does. George Mulford, the show’s director, stewarding his nineteenth show for PCS, let us know that this was his “third adventure” with THE FOREIGNER, having directed it once before in 1989 and “subsequently playing the role of ‘Charlie’ elsewhere.” Maybe if I had not known this, I could have looked the other way. Mulford says again in the Director Notes that “most of us, certainly including me, are reluctant to repeat themselves…” Well, then, perhaps, don’t.
The opening night show had visible flaws. Lighting, sound and entrance/exit miscues were unfortunate, but noticeable. Maybe these were just the nerves of a first performance. At first, I thought, maybe it’s just me, but Carol from Havertown, acknowledged that it was “hard to hear” the actors, but she felt compelled to say that the show was “entertaining.” Bob, her husband, said that the “first scene started off slow, but kept getting better.” Diane, from Kennett Square, who came to see the show without knowing what it was about, echoed the frustration, saying hearing the show was a problem. However, she came to see a friend of hers who was performing in the show to support him. Sightlines were compromised several times when the actors blocked each other from the audience, especially when Charlie sits by the fireplace. There were lines stepped on, there were lines which were totally lost when the audience laughed. It would not have hurt the show – if anything, it would have helped – to have the actors pause an extra beat or two until the laughter died down prior to starting with the next line. With an acknowledged sound problem, you would have thought Mulford would have addressed these types of issues.
There were many positives to this show. Brian Boland’s multi-level set was “remarkable” and looked like a fishing/hunting lodge in need of some TLC and Miriam Barnett Boland’s set decorating was extremely detailed. Props to the Props personnel of Aileen Lange and Pat Maze for placing even the slightest of items on stage or in the hands of the actors for a grand visual effect. Bruce Nutting can be credited with some pretty cool “special effects” – one in particular, which my Editor asked me not to reveal so that anyone seeing the show for the first time would still be “wowed” without giving away any plot. Let’s just say Margaret Hamilton would have been impressed. To be extremely fair, the audience seemed to appreciate the show. The two-thirds capacity audience laughed and enjoyed the show, with some fan club members of one particular actor hooting wildly at curtain call for their guy, complete with handheld signs!
The Director Notes closed this way: “Our modest goal is to send you out of the theater feeling better than when you came in. If we succeed, tell your friends the Players Club in its hundredth year can still provoke a youthful chuckle or two.” For some on this production’s opening night, they succeeded. However, what if for others, they didn’t? The show continues to run through October 2nd.
By: [author 9]
THE FOREIGNER, a comedy by Larry Shue, appeared originally in New York’s off-Broadway in 1983 and, 27 years later, managed to find its way to Swarthmore, PA where The Players Club of Swarthmore is celebrating its 100th Season! That’s reason alone to show up and let it be known to those involved that you welcome them in their new season. And ever notice when viewing a comedy that it’s all funnier when everyone is laughing because, as we all know, laughter is contagious? There’s nothing like a full house.
So, as the “new kid on the block”, I’m sent to review my first show. Please keep in mind that I’m no stranger to theatre as an audience participant and as a choreographer. Now, have you ever been in a situation where you aren’t going to laugh, or cry, for that matter, until someone makes you do so? That’s the attitude I came to the show with – “Go ahead, make me laugh.”
Act I opens with two British characters, Charlie and “Froggy” entering Betty’s Fishing Lodge in rural Georgia. Can you hear the accents? I was having some difficulty understanding Froggy’s accent, but since the audience seemed to find him extremely funny, it might have been my hearing. Charlie is painfully shy, so therefore, Froggy conjures up a plan to allow Charlie to be able to spend three days there with other guests without having to feel that he’s a bore.
Enter the following characters:
Betty, who finds Charlie charming and endearing with his limited English vocabulary which consists of one Eastern European nasal sounding phrase, “Tenk You”.
Bratty Catherine, engaged to sleazy “Reverend” David … it’s a comedy, remember?
Owen, a rude, loud disgusting boor who plays that role so well that he’s truly hateful. (I hope you’re really a nice guy in real life, Michael.)
Ellard – funny, adorable and mentally challenged. In his attempt to teach Charlie how to speak English, he seems to move up quite a few rungs on the ladder of intelligence. Comedy …
At this point in the first act, I must admit that I’d barely cracked a smile. However, the audience found the performance thus far hilarious. Don’t hate me, dear Director, for asking this third question. Ever notice how amusing we find our friends and family when they are on stage being comedic, no matter what they’re saying or doing? “Whatever works,” I say. It was, after all, opening night.
In Act II, Charlie is asked to tell a story in his native (non-existent) language. He tells a lengthy story while exaggerating every move with every part of his body in a language of gobbledygook. That was funny! Now I was on a roll. And I’m not related to anyone on stage! That in itself was worth “the price of admission”. (I think you were enjoying that, T.J.)
The play ran smoothly from scene to scene. The characters kept our interest piquing. Goodness prevailed, of course. A comedy. Convincing set, by the way. Sound was just right. And no need to worry about an unhappy ending. Smiles all around …
Till the next show…
by Larry Shue
Directed by George Mulford
September 17 – October 2, 2010
Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Road