Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Larry Shue's “The Foreigner” is the most requested play at the Arkansas Rep, so it's no surprise the play opened to a packed house. Neither was it hard to see why Rep fans like the play so much. It's funny, and it has a message that is particularly apropos right now.
Director Nicole Capri Bauer assembled a cast that seems almost tailor-made for this production. Paul Tigue plays Charlie Baker, a Brit with a serious case of social anxiety disorder on vacation at a rural lodge in Georgia. In order to avoid having to talk to anyone, he pretends not to speak English. This small conceit propels the rest of the story, which turns out to be about self-acceptance and fighting ignorance.
Tigue's portrayal of Charlie started out a touch too close to the Sheldon character on CBS's “Big Bang Theory” for me. He gave Charlie the same kind of stiff, awkward movement and flat affect that Jim Parsons uses for Sheldon. Charlie's gibberish even included the words “Big Bang Theory.”
After the first few scenes, however, Tigue got more comfortable in the role. He really came into his own during a scene in which Charlie must tell a story in his “native” language. It's a divinely hilarious bit.
The rest of the cast delivered flawless performances. Candyce Hinkle played a lovable Southern lady, Betty Meeks, with exactly the right mixture of hillbilly charm and sensitivity. She managed to make her Betty both hysterical and completely sympathetic.
Other standout performances included Scott McLean Harrison's sympathetic and charming portrayal of Ellard and Caitlin Kinsella's self-effacing Catherine. Harrison shone in the scenes where he's “teaching” Charlie to speak English; he managed to give the word “fork” about three extra syllables. Kinsella's Catherine starts out as a stereotype and then beautifully unfolds into something much more complicated.
Bravo, too, to the props department. If you can find a seat near the front middle of the theater, it truly does feel like you're in the living room of a rustic lodge in rural Georgia.
“The Foreigner” is worth the ticket price. I suspect that with a couple more performances under their belts, the cast will develop an even tighter control over their material.