Our Town

Going incognito as ‘The Foreigner’

Betty Meeks (Marge Kemp) is delighted to meet a bona fide, real live, in-the-flesh foreigner for the very first time. And the meeting is made even more special by the fact that Charlie Baker (Jeff Cooper) doesn’t speak any English at all. Of course, there is more to Charlie than meets Betty’s eye — but in Cranbrook Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Foreigner” there is a lot more than meets the eye about a lot of people. Betty may be delighted, but Charlie’s perceived foreignness is about to land him in some pretty hostile waters. - Barry Coulter photo
Betty Meeks (Marge Kemp) is delighted to meet a bona fide, real live, in-the-flesh foreigner for the very first time. And the meeting is made even more special by the fact that Charlie Baker (Jeff Cooper) doesn’t speak any English at all. Of course, there is more to Charlie than meets Betty’s eye — but in Cranbrook Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Foreigner” there is a lot more than meets the eye about a lot of people. Betty may be delighted, but Charlie’s perceived foreignness is about to land him in some pretty hostile waters.
— image credit: Barry Coulter photo

Townsman Staff

Take one individual whose personal problems are causing him such anguish that he cannot face relating to other people. Drop him into a crowded, chatty backwoods milieu. The individual is forced to put on a mask to protect his privacy, in a setting where personal space is a rarity. The secrets of that crowd is thus revealed to the individual — "the Foreigner," who realizes he must come out of his shell and take action.

But how to do this without revealing that he has been playing a role all along?

"The Foreigner," Cranbrook Community Theatre's examination of intolerance, acceptance and role-playing is being brought to the stage courtesy of director David Stock. This is the second time the award-winning comedy has appeared at the Studio Stage Door.

"I am reprising 'The Foreigner' after doing it 25 years ago," Stock said. "When I recently saw a recording of the original production from 1989, I was thinking that so many aspects of it could be improved. I realized that I had improved as a director over the years and saw so many more possibilities in what I could do with it.

"I have always loved the play from the moment my aunt and uncle took me to see it in Edmonton in 1987. It has universal themes, is well written, and is very, very funny. Fun is something we can never get enough of."

"The Foreigner" tells the story of Canadian Charlie Baker (played by Jeff Cooper), self-proclaimed "world's dullest man" who is dragged by his Canadian Army buddy Froggy LeSueur to a remote fishing lodge in Georgia, U.S.

Charlie is so distraught about having to relate to the lodge guests that Froggy concocts an outrageous scheme. To save Charlie from his shy self, Froggy introduces him as a "foreigner" who doesn't speak or understand English. It isn't long before Charlie's new persona backfires and complication upon complication ensues in a series of hilarious and heartwarming revelations.

Charlie is changed by his disguise and goes from "Zero" to "Hero" by the end of the play. All the characters affect Charlie and are in turn affected by him. The play ends with the ultimate good guys versus bad guys climax.

"I have updated the play to the present time and yet it still has a great relevance for theatre audiences," Stock said. "Today more than ever, there is a need for tolerance and acceptance for 'outsiders' that come into our community. Every year there are a constant influx of 'foreigners' coming to Canada and we all have to adjust our lives and ways of looking at and dealing with them."

Stock said the play takes serious issues, such as racism and intolerance, and addresses them with comedy in a very funny way.

The author of the play, Larry Shue, is also fascinated with shyness, disguise, and the hazards of language," Stock said.

In "The Foreigner" his main character, Charlie Baker, is an intensely bashful person whose life is transformed through role playing, make-believe, and communicating in strange tongues.

Stock has assembled a veteran CCT cast — including some actors who've worked with Stock in the past.

Jeff Cooper plays the lead, Charlie Baker. Joining him onstage are Jennifer Inglis and Marge Kemp, Jerrod Bondy and Sean Swinwood, Barry Coulter, and Mount Baker students Mitchell Graw and Harrison Ford. Sean Cloarac and Patrick Bondy round out the cast.

"The Foreigner" is playing at the Stage Door at 11 - 11th Avenue South from April 3 to 5, 9 to 12, and 16 to 19. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at Lotus Books.

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