Village Theatre’s ‘Foreigner’: Bring on the laughs

Playwright Larry Shue didn’t live long enough to see the knee-slapping, button-busting, decades-long popularity of his comedy “The Foreigner.” Shue died in a plane crash a year after the Off-Broadway play opened in 1984.

Thirty years later, Brian Yorkey is among several directors around the country reviving the comedy this year, and Village Theatre has a good production.

Yorkey, a favorite son of Village Theatre, is perhaps best known for writing the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Next to Normal.” Yorkey said he fell in love with “The Foreigner” when he was a student in Village Theatre’s performing arts training program in his hometown of Issaquah.

“The Foreigner” is about Charlie, a guy who works too hard and has a crummy home life. When he arrives at a fishing lodge in Georgia, all he wants is to be left alone.

It seems easy enough to masquerade as a man from some nameless eastern European country, someone who can’t speak English. Charlie soon realizes, however, that people say crazy things when they think the person they’re talking to can’t understand them.

What started out as a place to crash in peace and quiet, the fishing lodge quickly becomes a hotbed of subterfuge.

Charlie is played by the handsome Shakespearean actor Erik Gratton, whose plastic face alone induces belly laughs from the audience. By all accounts, Gratton is just as good as Matthew Broderick, who played the role in 2004 in New York.

Sharva Maynard, a Village Theatre favorite, is outstanding and thoroughly believable as the lodge owner Betty Meeks.

Angela DiMarco, Anthony Lee Phillips, Eric Ray Anderson, Jonathan Crimeni and Patrick Phillips round out the cast of hilarious characters.

The sound, lighting and scenic design team deserve kudos for developing a stage set that truly looks like a Southern fishing lodge in a spring rain. The set was moved from Village’s theater in Issaquah to Everett earlier this week.

The show is presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through March 30 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

“The Foreigner” is an award-winning comedic farce that remains true to its 1980s sensibilities. It feels slightly dated, but Yorkey expects good comedic timing and fast-moving action from his cast. And they deliver.

In the past decade Yorkey has directed 12 shows at Village Theatre. One of the country’s busiest theater professionals, Yorkey also is working on a new Broadway musical “If/Then” featuring Broadway star Idina Menzel, who has a role on TV’s “Glee,” is the voice of Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen” and whose name was mispronounced by John Travolta at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Next up from Village in Everett is the whimsical new musical “The Tutor.” The show, about an aspiring young novelist, runs May 2 to 25.

“Funny Girl,” the story of Fanny Brice, is Village’s summer show, running from July 11 through Aug. 3.

Earlier this week, Village Theatre announced its 2014-2015 season.

In Everett it includes the contemporary Broadway hit and Pulitzer Prize nominee “In the Heights,” Oct. 31 to Nov. 23; the Disney family favorite “Mary Poppins,” Jan. 9 to Feb. 8; a comedy based on the Jules Verne book “Around the World in 80 Days,” March 6 to 29, 2015; a brand new musical comedy thriller, “No Way to Treat a Lady,” May 1 to 24, 2015; and the Bob Fosse classic “Cabaret” from July 10 to Aug. 2, 2015.

Village saw record-breaking attendance for the extended run of “Les Miserables.”

With 18,400 season ticket holders in Issaquah and Everett, Village Theatre has experienced steady growth since 1979 and currently has an operating budget of more than $10 million.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $60. Go to www.villagetheatre.org or call the Everett Performing Arts Center box office at 425-257-8600.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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