Sunday, October 01, 1995

Of Eyebrows and Accents

George Spelvin’s review of The Foreigner from the Buzz

December 1995—THERE IS NOTHING LIKE GOOD AMATEUR theatre. It’s inexpensive and accessible, and what the players lack in technique they make up in enthusiasm- an enthusiasm that permeated ACT’s new production of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner.

From bad accents to major eyebrow acting, the cast and crew brought a lot of joy to their production- a joy that, despite a slow pace and an awful first twenty minutes, made for an entertaining evening.

I can’t analyze the exposition in any detail since most of it got lost in Doug Huskilson’s well-intentioned but mournfully incomprehensible “cockney” accent. I gathered that the story had something to do with this vest-clad, bow-tie guy (Dave Sherren) who apparently is shy or something and doesn’t want to talk to anybody at this bed-and-breakfast, which I later discovered was supposed to be an old fishing lodge in Georgia. His reason for being there eluded me; however, his buddy (the poorly accented Huskilson) sets him up as the eponymous Foreigner, who cannot speak or understand English. This, of course, allows him to partake of many private and occasionally plot-advancing conversations. Cue the mad-cap shenanigans. The acting was fine on the whole (even Doug’s, though I didn’t like his accent at all). At the risk of creating rifts in a promising company of actors, I’ll name my particular favourites: Jennifer Anderson; Greg Stapleton as her dimwit brother; Ed Rashed’s menacing facial hair and eye-brows (his unwitting accomplices); and Dave Sherren, who executed some fine physical comedy in addition to directing.

The set, as I mentioned, evoked neither the South nor a Fishing Lodge. This could have been easily remedied with a well-placed stuffed catfish or other appropriate set-dressing. Lighting problems included an apparently missed cue and the distractingly visible tops of the very tall flats that formed the set’s walls. The sound effects were quite good-much better than a recent professional production. As far as direction is concerned, I think David Sherren did quite well in light of his enormous on-stage responsibilities. There were directorial weaknesses that threatened storytelling clarity, though, including: muddied realizations or decisions by characters at crucial points in the play; some awkward blocking; and Doug Huskilson’s accent. What impressed me most about the evening was the sense of momentum and community that surrounded this production.  From the sale of treats in the corridor during intermission to the fun newsletter available at the ticket table, it was obvious that this production was not the work of a few hoity-toity individuals but of many people working together to accomplish something. Although this is only its second production, ACT is challenging and improving itself with each performance. I look forward to the promised production of The Crucible later this winter.

- George Spelvin

George Spelvin Buzz theatre commentator George Spelvin, like David Letterman, gets a kick out of good-old-fashioned community theatre.

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