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Theatre department pulls through for spectacular showing of 'The Foreigner'

By Jessica Baird
On September 30, 2011

With its intricate set design, well-planned costumes, and on-the-ball cast, hearing that "The Foreigner" was a last-minute replacement for DSC theatre's first show of the season was almost unbelievable.

Director Varlo Davenport and his staging team had already planned the set design, staging and cast for comedy "Noises Off" last semester, but plans changed rapidly when the department was refused the rights to the show two weeks before the current semester started. By that time, actors were memorized and ready to go, but they willingly rolled with the punches as Davenport searched for a new show to fit both his cast and his new time constraint.

Now, instead of six months of design time and two months of solid rehearsal and building time, Davenport and his crew were down to a little more than a month to design, rehearse and perfect a brand new show.

"We needed a show that I was familiar with so that I could pull it together quickly," Davenport said. "We considered a bunch of different scripts, and this was the one that fit. I think that this cast may fit this show better even than the show we originally intended for them."

The verdict? Challenge accepted.

Because the cast for "The Foreigner" is smaller than that of "Noises Off" the show was double cast to incorporate all the actors who had initially earned roles. The show is set in a rural fishing lodge in Georgia.

The entire show takes place in one room, a major plus for the show's set designers. Demolition specialist Froggy LeSueur, played by Joseph Ahern, takes his friend Charlie Baker, played by Brigham Blackham, to Georgia for a much needed getaway from his cheating wife.

The only problem is that Charlie is pathologically shy and scared to death of the prospect of having to converse with the other guests at the lodge. Trying to alleviate the situation, Froggy tells lodge owner Betty, played by Keely Tree and Darcee Warner, that Charlie is a foreigner and doesn't speak one word of English.

The rest of the show plays out the three days of adventure Charlie encounters with all of the different people staying in the lodge with him. First he meets engaged couple Catherine and David, played by Belinda Blackham, Zoe Davenport and Koby Campbell. I was instantly sucked into their relationship with each other because of how well Blackham and Campbell fed off of each other. It quickly became clear that there was an imbalance between them and, the actors made it very real and tangible to the audience.

Charlie also meets Ellerd, Catherine's slow-witted younger brother played by Kyle Flowers. The Ellerd that Flowers portrayed stole my heart as soon as he came onstage. He did a fantastic job developing the character and the quirks and habits that made him different from everyone else, like the way he spoke and his mannerisms.

The relationship that grows between Ellerd and Charlie was so sweet to me because they relate on a level that nobody really understands at first. Very little is expected from either one of them, so when they start to bring out intelligent and useful qualities in each other, the others around them begin to see and understand both characters for who they really are and not just for the stereotypes they have been categorized under. They were my favorite actors to watch the interaction between onstage because you could tell they had spent a lot of time getting to know each other and get comfortable enough with each other to really stretch and develop their characters.

Charlie also gets to know Georgia hick and white power promoter Owen, played by Trey Paterson. Owen's character is loud and obnoxious, and Paterson did a great job making me dislike him immensely. From the ultra-lazy Southern drawl to the dirty overalls, Paterson really worked to make his character get under your skin and rub you the wrong way.

The connections between characters are heart-warming and wrap you up in the troubles and emotions of each individual character. By the end of the show, Charlie has affected not only the lives of every person he comes in contact with, but he has also gained a profound knowledge of who he is and ultimately has the potential to become. These relationships and discoveries wouldn't have come to life as strongly as they did if the actors hadn't worked so hard to create real relationships with each other. It was starkly apparent to me that they were invested in each other and really trusted each other onstage, and that, in my opinion, is what can make or break a show.

"The Foreigner" is full of fantastic humor, both subtle and blatant, and creates a two-act story worth investing in. I giggled, gasped and protested right out loud through the entire show without shame because the whole crowd was as invested as I was. Overall, the creativity and attention to detail provided by the cast and crew of the show came together to produce a polished and pleasing theatrical experience.

The elements of the show, like the set and costumes, made me feel like I was part of the experience. The attention to the little things, right down to the date and events on the newspaper and magazine Catherine reads, made the show seamless and completely enveloped me in the world of the show.

I was very impressed with the character development of the individual actors. They had really taken the time to get to know themselves as the character they were portraying inside and out, which made them more believable and the story easier to jump headfirst into.

I am proud of Dixie theatre's first production of the season. Though it wasn't the show they had originally planned for, they took what they had and ran with it and made a fantastic production worth utilizing your student discount to go see.  

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