REVIEW by Willard Manus
JD Cullum (seen recently in the Taper's Stones in His Pockets) turns in a remarkable performance as Charlie in THE FOREIGNER, Larry Shue's comedy now playing at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. Cullum is hilarious as the sad-sack Brit who, on a trip to the Deep South, pretends for bizarre personal reasons to be an alien who neither speaks nor understands English.
Charlie's impersonation takes place in a fishing lodge run by Betty Meeks (Angeela Paton, alternating with Maree Cheatham), a sweet but unsophisticated widow who has never ventured outside of Georgia's Tilghman County. Boarding with her are Catherine (Alyss Henderson), a rich young thing with a dim-witted younger brother (Colin Fickes). Catherine has been knocked up by her unctuous boyfriend, Reverend David (John Hemphill), who lied to her about being sterile.
The proverbial fly on the wall, Charlie is privy to the scheme Rev. David concocts with Owen (Dave Florek), a swaggering redneck and KKK leader, to swindle Betty out of her property. Handicapped by his putative inability to speak English, Charlie must use all his smarts and cunning to rally the good people in the lodge and get them to take on the forces of evil.
Shue's comedy, first produced at Milwaukee Rep twenty years ago, has been tickling funnybones both in the USA and abroad ever since. It may be oldfashioned in its structure and approach--the southern characters tend to caricature--but THE FOREIGNER not only has a truly funny setup but has ample humanity at its core and comes down squarely on the side of kindness, community and democracy.
Above all, THE FOREIGNER gives a gifted comic actor like Cullum the chance to strut his stuff. With his expressive face and body language, his skilful timing and delivery, Cullum is perfect in the role, a revelation and a delight. He gets wonderful support from Paul V. O'Connor as Froggy, a Blimpish-like British soldier, and from the rest of his supporting cast. Deftly directed by Steve Albrezzi, THE FOREIGNER also benefits from the striking set by Charles Erven.
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Call (310) 477-2055 or visit odysseytheatre.com