Friday night was Rep night with a twist. Rep night is our chance to see the latest offering from the Saint Louis Repertory Theater. This night’s performance was The Foreigner. The twist was that Rey, Dan and Annie joined us. At Cyrano’s Rey and Dan had dinner with us and then we picked Annie up on our way to the theater.
The Foreigner is a two-act comedy by Larry Shue. It is set in a fishing lodge in rural Georgia; the plot revolves around the visit of two guests, Englishmen Charlie Baker and Staff Sergeant Froggy LeSueur. Naturally shy, Charlie is also depressed because his wife may be dying. He tells Froggy, “I should have stayed with Mary, at the hospital. When a man’s wife is dying, he belongs with her, not – not in Georgia.” He begs Froggy, “Please. Try to understand. I can’t talk to anyone now.”
To help, Froggy tells Betty, the lodge’s owner, that Charlie is a foreigner who does not understand English. Betty, who has never traveled, is delighted to cater to a stranger who is “as foreign as the day is long.” At first, Charlie is appalled by Froggy’s fabrication and protests. Soon, though, Charlie overhears a private and emotional conversation, and decides he had better perpetuate the ruse.
Before long, Charlie finds himself privy to assorted secrets and scandals freely discussed in front of him by the other visitors. These include the spoiled but introspective Southern belle Catherine and the man to whom she is somewhat reluctantly engaged, the Reverend David Lee, a seemingly good-natured preacher with a dark side. Her younger brother, Ellard, a somewhat “slow” boy tries to “teach” Charlie how to speak English. Owen, the racist county property inspector, plans to oust Betty and convert the lodge into a meeting place for the Klan.
Shue’s Foreigner is somewhat autobiographical. He has described himself to be as painfully shy as his character Charlie. He and his wife moved from Milwaukee to Georgia to form a theater company, where his wife promptly left him. He returned to Milwaukee, but soon took up an acting assignment in Japan. He spoke not a word of Japanese and figured that most Japanese didn’t know much about Americans, but he believed that they did know cowboys. He bought a cowboy hat and it proved his ticket abroad. When he returned home this hat was adorned with the signatures of his new Japanese friends. It proved a life changing experience.
In the final climatic scene armed Klansmen attack the lodge, intent on driving out the foreigner and other guests and then stealing the lodge from Betty. Charlie organizes the other guests in resistance. A science fiction editor by trade, Charlie concocts a dramatization calculated to scare the superstitious Owen and his Klan away. Mixing one part The Day the Earth Stood Still, “klaatu barada nikto” and one part The Wizard of Oz, “I’m melting”, he succeeds.