Even Charlie Finds Himself To Be Magnificently Boring in The Foreigner

Sammie Joe Kinnett Is Brilliant As “The Foreigner”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 20, 2017

Charlie Baker is a well-meaning copy editor in London. He hasn’t had much of a marriage. His wife of many years has found him to be incredibly boring, so boring that he is beginning to agree with her. She is seriously ill in a hospital, but doesn’t care to have him around, and is glad to have him out of the way for a few days while he accompanies a friend on a trip to the USA.

Pictured L-R: Lance Rasmussen (Ellard Simms) and Sammie Joe Kinnett (Charlie Baker). Photo Matt Gale Photography

Charlie’s friend, Froggy, is an explosives expert in the British military and takes Charlie with him to Georgia, leaving him in a rural hunting lodge while he goes to on his explosive training assignment. Charlie is traumatized by the thought of being left alone, perhaps requiring him to engage in even minimal conversation. Froggy hatches a plan, telling the lodge owner that Charlie is a “foreigner,” does not speak or understand ANY English, and must be left alone.

Unfortunately, while pretending to not understand nor speak any English, Charlie overhears some conversations among the lodge’s guests that he should not have heard. The “foreigner” ruse is beginning to have serious implications. The ensuing two and one-half hours are a delightful, and sometimes-sobering look, at how we feel about foreigners amongst us. Charlie goes through the machinations of understanding nothing, and becoming involved in pantomiming what he needs, while the guests speak louder and louder, as if that will help him understand.

Sammie Joe Kinnett as Charlie Baker Photo credit Zachary Andrews 2017

Sammie Joe Kinnett is astonishing as the boring Charlie Baker. He becomes incredibly alert in his silence, and ultimately has positive effects on everyone around him. Josh Robinson is believable as Froggy, Charlie’s military friend who creates the “foreigner” image for his friend. A great foil for the speechless Charlie is Ellard Simms, the maybe-mentally-challenged brother of a guest in the lodge.

Lance Rasmussen is super as Ellard. Ellard and Charlie have great scenes together including an over-the-top breakfast when they try to outdo each other in figuring out what the other is trying to relate. Their hijinx end up with each holding a glass on their heads – for no apparent reason except to enjoy the incredible happiness of finding friendship. Ellard believes that Charles might just be smarter than he appears to be, and vice versa. Ellard decides to teach Charlie how to read English – in just three days! And while immersed in his own bubble of disbelief, Charlie realizes that he is not so boring – and that he actually has a personality.

Pictured L-R: Jessica Robblee (Catherine Simms), Sammie Joe Kinnett (Charlie Baker), Standing – Lance Rasmussen (Ellard Simms) and Edith Weiss (Betty Meeks).
Matt Gale Photography 2017

The entire cast is uniformly excellent. Edith Weiss is very good as Betty Meeks, the lodge owner who has no knowledge of anything outside her bit of rural Georgia. Greg Ungar is the mean-spirited county inspector, eager to condemn the lodge property. Zachary Andrews and Jessica Robblee are the Reverend David Marshall Lee and his pregnant girlfriend Catherine. Lee has designs to buy the lodge and turn it into a White Supremacy headquarters, using money from his heiress girlfriend. The girlfriend, Catherine, is accompanied by her half-witted brother Ellard, who just might be brighter than appears.

The clever play, written by Larry Shue, premiered at Milwaukee Repertory Theater and opened off-Broadway in 1984, directed by Jerry Zaks. Initial response was not overly-enthusiastic, but gained word-of-mouth momentum. It received Obie and Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best New American Play. Playwright Shue died in a plane crash in 1985, not realizing the success the play would ultimately receive. The play has gone on to receive worldwide acclaim.

The Arvada production is directed by Geoffrey Kent, with the set designed by Brian Mallgrave. The mood of the production is in constant flux – from high hilarity to somber realization that evil remains among us. The ultimate result is one of inspiration and hope – with the understanding that each of us has potential of being an influence for good – often when we least expect it.

“The Foreigner”
Where: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: Through November 18, 2017
Tickets: 720/898-7200
Online:  Arvadacenter.org

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Nothing “Rotten” In This Giddy Delight!

A Shakespearean Wannabee Tries To Write A Play

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 18, 2017

Welcome to the Renaissance! It is 1590. The Dark Ages are over. There is a rebirth of creative activity in Elizabethan England. The arts are flourishing, and William Shakespeare is the rock star of the era. He is the toast of the town and his play “Romeo and Juliet” is about to open. Everyone in London is enamored with the new author. Everyone except playwright Nick Bottom. He is incredibly jealous of Shakespeare’s success, and openly announces in song, “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” Nick and his brother, Nigel, are about to lose the patronage of a local artistic funder, unless they can come up with a substantial hit — immediately. Even the author brother, Nigel, is impressed with Shakespeare’s success, much to the dismay of his brother.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

Nick is desperate for an idea for the potential play, and goes to the teller of the future Nostradamus, for help. Unfortunately, this is not THE Nostradamus, but Nostradamus’ nephew, Thomas Nostradamus. Thomas can also see the future, but not particularly clearly. He does advise Nick Bottom that the future is going to be in musical comedy, and outlines the idea in one of theatre’s most recent delights, “A Musical.” Thomas Nostradamus has Bottom intrigued with what might happen on the stage if performers could sing, and dance, and act — all possibly at the same time. The audience is likewise enthralled, and Bottom goes to work with Nigel to provide a show that will save them from financial ruin.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

Thomas Nostradamus then advises that Shakespeare’s next show may be the most widely acclaimed play in history. If Bottom works now, he can have Shakespeare’s success even before Shakespeare can write his own play. Nostradamus advises that the play is to be “Omelette.” Seems that Nostradamus didn’t quite see the future, confusing “Hamlet” with “Omelette.” The ensuing result is hysteria as “Omelette, The Musical” is being prepared. “Something Rotten” then becomes a Broadway show to be reckoned with. There are bits of Shakespeare’s most quotable lines and snippets from Broadways most-seen musicals.

The theatre-savvy Denver audience was in awe with the hijinks, audibly delighted when they recognized each show or lyric mentioned. This is enormous fun.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

The touring cast on stage at the Buell this month is terrific. Bob McClure is a gem as Nick Bottom, with Josh Grisetti equally impressive as Nigel Bottom. Trying to pilfer what he can from the new authors is Shakespeare, played by Adam Pascal. McClure, Pascal, and Grisetti, have extensive Broadway credentials. Pascal was the original Roger Davis in “Rent.” and Rob McClure received the Theatre World acting award for his performance in “Chaplin.” Grisetti was also honored with a Theatre World Award for his work in “Enter Laughing.”

Supporting players are equally as talented with Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, Jeff Brooks as Shylock, Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah, Maggie Lakis as Bea, and Autumn Hurlbert as Portia. Hurlbert has the look and sound of Kristin Chenoweth, as she plays the daughter of the stern Puritan leader who literally falls head over heels for Nigel Bottom. The cast is large. The sets, costumes, and lighting impressive. The dancing is first rate.

In addition to the show-stopping “Welcome to the Renaissance, ““God, I Hate Shakespeare,” “Will Power,” and “A Musical” is the lilting “To Thine Own Self” — an impressive plea for everyone to take responsibility for the way they behave.

There is nothing “Rotten” about this delightful transfer from Broadway. It opened in New York in 2014, receiving rave reviews. It is a rewarding, rollicking evening of energy, silly sophistication, and charm. In addition, it involves the audience, trying to figure out which Shakespeare quotes are from which plays, and which crazy bits and pieces are from Broadway musicals.

“Something Rotten”
Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: October 29, 2017
Online: Click Here For the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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