Theatrikos’ ‘The Foreigner’: Addressing serious issues with humor | Local

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LARRY HENDRICKS Special for the Daily Sun

How do you make the Klu Klux Klan, racism and prejudice funny and heartwarming?

The set-up is awesome: pull a fish out of water from a faraway land, pretend it doesn’t speak a word of English, ask everyone around it to share secrets they believe he doesn’t understand, and…well…full-scale hilarity ensues.

Theatrikos continues its 50th season of showcasing audience favorites with a series of “The Foreigner,” by Larry Shue. The comedy is helmed by veteran actor, director, former executive director and board member, Stan Sutherland.

“My all-time favorite play was ‘The Foreigner,'” Sutherland said, adding that he played lead character Charlie in a 1989 production in Racine, Wisc. “There is magic in this room. So when I had the opportunity to realize it, I jumped on it. It will be a wonderful experience for everyone in the audience.

The cast includes Michael Rulon as Froggy, Ricky Conway as Charlie, Christine Fredericks as Betty, Kai Bergland as David, Rachel Santay as Catherine, Wayne Purves as Owen, and Casey Russell as Ellard.

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The play revolves around the Englishman, Charlie, a shy guy whose sick wife encouraged him to accompany the Staff. sergeant. Froggy LeSueur on a trip to a fishing lodge in rural Georgia run by Betty Meeks. Froggy suggests to anyone who will hear him that Charlie is from a distant country and doesn’t understand English. Lodge guests start talking about outrageous, dark and sinister secrets and let the fun begin.

Rulon, a regular at Theatrikos, gives Froggy a believable Cockney accent and describes his character as a “champion in the art of conversation and quick on his feet”.

Froggy, as a soldier, regularly travels to America and Georgia, particularly because of the services he can render as a demolitions expert. Rulon added that Froggy isn’t on stage much, but he plays a vital role as a savior/wise man/trickster and catalyst all rolled into one.

“It’s incredibly timely social commentary, but it’s told in a way that contains humor and very real people in a slightly absurd situation,” Rulon said. “There is personal growth. It’s both heartwarming and hilarious.

Russell, a newcomer to the scene, plays Ellard, a somewhat “slow” man. Ellard is in charge of teaching English to Charlie. Throughout the process, Ellard is understood to be much more than he is perceived.

“He may be slow, but he’s also methodical,” Russell said. “You can see he has big ideas and people don’t give him any credit. He has a good heart and is happy to help.

As for how audiences will react to the play, Russell said, “They’re going to love it. They will have a good laugh. »

Fredericks plays Betty as naïve yet wise at the same time.

“She’s the ribbon that ties everything together,” Fredericks said. “She’s fun to play. She is mean and has a big heart. She gets good zingers and can give it just as well as anyone else, but she takes people under her wing.

Fredericks said there were comments about acceptance, kindness and more.

Sutherland said that although the piece contains heady themes, it is not judgmental. Additionally, the props and technical aspects of making the production are extensive – so much so, in fact, that the team will show a video of what happens in the making of the production during intermission and after. the representation.

Conway, who is also relatively new to the Theatrikos scene, is excited and nervous about taking on a lead role.

“My journey in this role is about letting go and having fun with it,” Conway said.

In a way, his journey in the role is very much tied to Charlie’s journey through the minefield of heavy subject matter explored in the play.

“Gosh if it’s not as relevant today as it was when it was written,” Conway said, adding that after audiences watch the play, more hearts may come out of it. light and learn a little more about himself and his life. In the process.

“Isn’t that what good art does?” he asked and smiled.

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