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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Appreciation for Complexity

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Larry Shue’s comedy The Foreigner continues to be greatly entertaining nearly three decades after it first debuted in Milwaukee. SummerStage of Delafield’s outdoor space in Lapham Peak State Park provides an airy intimacy for a solidly enjoyable, emotionally engaging performance.

Ralph Garcia manages the right balance of meekness, whimsy and courage in the role of Charlie Baker, a British gentleman who finds himself thrust into the position of pretending not to speak a word of English around a group of strangers in rural Georgia. Sara Sarna is lovable in the role of an elderly widow who needs something exotic in her life. Ryan Schwartz lends ample heart to the role of the intellectually challenged Ellard Simms, who is prompted to cultivate learning of a sort in a rather clever way by Charlie. Katie Krueger brings out a surprising amount of depth as Catherine Simms, an attractive young heiress who is being conspired against. Krueger lends an endearing amount of strength to the role that makes the conspiracy against her feel all the more intense.

Director Diane Powell fosters a dynamic that allows us to laugh at the characters without laughing at their expense, which is a really tricky accomplishment to pull off with Shue's script given that so many of the characters here are extremely delicate. Even the bigoted ignorance in the show comes across with respect for its complexity, which is difficult to do in a play that uses that bigotry as the main antagonist in the story. Powell manages a production that lends an appreciation of the deeper elements of the script without overpowering the show’s basic comedy.

SummerStage's production of The Foreigner runs through June 29 at Lapham Peak State Park in Delafield. For tickets, call 262-337-1560.