The Foreigner

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The Pleasant Grove Players did “The Foreigner” earlier this year, and it was apparently so successful that they’ve brought the show around the corner to the Little London Dinner Theater, where it’s being performed through Nov. 11.

The director, Howard Little, and every cast member but one are the same as in the earlier production.

It’s a frequently performed play from the mid-’80s that is somewhere between all-out farce and droll character-based comedy. A painfully shy man named Charlie (Thane Bingham) is dragged to rural Georgia on a military-training trip with Australian buddy Froggy LeSueur (DeShawn Smith). Froggy leaves Charlie at his friend Betty Meeks’s (Donna Bingham) fishing lodge, where, in order to keep Charlie from having to make conversation with strangers, he tells Betty that Charlie speaks no English. Therefore, no one will bother talking to him, and if they do, he won’t have to answer.

Also, however, no one’s afraid to talk in front of him, and he winds up learning some secrets he shouldn’t have. Former debutante Catherine Simms (Tracy Fielding), for example, is pregnant by her fiance, the supposedly saintly Rev. David Lee (Jason Boren). David, however, has nefarious doings in the works with local moron Owen Musser (Dennis Purdie). Catherine’s little brother, the dim-witted Ellard (Chad Bowler, the only cast member not in the Pleasant Grove Players production), has no secrets — except that maybe he’s smarter than everyone gives him credit for.

It’s a funny, laid-back play whose rather startling climax — it involves the Klan! — is easier to take because we’ve been coaxed into the situation casually.

The program mentions that Thane Bingham is a preschool teacher in real life, and it shows. His delivery as Charlie is soft-voiced and exaggerated, as if he were telling a story. He’s much more believable as the gobbledegook-speaking “foreigner,” where he really cuts loose.

Charlie is supposed to be British, but the story has been changed here to make him an American who’s been living in London. If Bingham can’t or prefers not to do the British accent, it’s probably better not to try — but the dialogue should be altered, too. As it is, there are several lines that sound odd being spoken with an American accent — words like “shan’t” and “fellow,” and lines like “I shall miss them terribly” scream BRITISH.

Donna Bingham is great at the widow Meeks, nailing the dialect perfectly and exuding grandmotherly charm in her frumpy housedresses and droopy stockings. The rest of the main cast, too, is enthusiastic and funny, not always mining the depths of the characters, but definitely having fun with them.

Nearly every male cast member in this show wore sandals and socks. I cannot fathom this, unless Betty Meeks's place was a particularly unfashionable lodge.

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