Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
Monroe, CT - I didn’t really know what to expect and then it turned out to be nothing I ever expected.
The logo of ‘The Foreigner’ by Larry Shue, put together with the title, suggested to me international spies and intrigue. Not even close. The photo I saw online of the cast members at Two Planks Theater Company that were directed by Susan Halliwell on the set designed by producer Brooke Burling looked like American hunting lodge. The description of the characters that I Googled before the curtain (which I have never done at any other performance) only added to my confusion.
It turns out that the piece is a farce that is in fact set in a rustic lodge in rural Georgia USA. Charlie Baker (masterfully played by Mike Martone, Jr.) is the foreigner, but it is all a ruse. “Froggy” LeSeur (Larry Pisani) is a British soldier and Charlie’s friend. Betty Meeks (Phyllis Fabelinsky) is the owner of said rustic lodge. The Rev. David Marshall Lee (Robert Thomas Halliwell) is a guest at the lodge who is with his fiancee Catherine Simms (Antonietta Delli Carpini) and her brother Ellard (Jonny Yagovane.) Owen Musser is a bigot played by Phil Lorenzo.
At first, it is fun to watch the characters reveal their secrets in front of Charlie who supposedly speaks no English; the plot device works well for the first act and there are plenty of funny lines. Then things get a little more dramatic and still farcical in the second act. I will admit that when the name of the Klan was first spoken, I thought I had misheard the line; be forewarned that the KKK gets more than a passing mention.
All the actors do a fine job with their widely different roles. Mr. Martone made his Two Planks debut as Charlie and earned some mid-scene applause for a long monologue in an invented foreign language. I had a bit of trouble understanding Mr. Pisani’s British accent at first, but otherwise his was a fine performance. Ms. Fabelinsky was funny and charming in her Two Planks debut. Mr. Halliwell (Gabe in ‘Next to Normal’) showed his versatility in the role of the shady reverend and Ms. Carpini did well in her Two Planks debut as the heiress. Mr. Yagovane almost stole the show as the self-described “dimwitted, socially awkward country boy” and Mr. Lorenzo was a little scary as Owen.
The large set was an impressive one, especially when you consider that it covers the front space of a church. Costumes by the director were appropriate and the lighting by Rob Primorac made it all look great. Prop fabrication by Jose Jolon was both interesting and well-done.
Coming from Two Planks outdoors under the stars at Monroe’s Wolfe Park this summer will be ‘Gypsy,’ ‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid,’ and ‘Disney’s Mulan, Jr.’
Photos by Rob Primorac