‘The Foreigner’ Offers Humor in Conflict

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Students rehearse a scene from “The Foreigner.” Pictured, from left, are Gideon Nelson, Joey Barth, Grant Batdorff, Sarah Hogan, Caleb Smith, and Leah Alpaugh.
Students rehearse a scene from “The Foreigner.” Pictured, from left, are Gideon Nelson, Joey Barth, Grant Batdorff, Sarah Hogan, Caleb Smith, and Leah Alpaugh.

The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts presents the comedy “The Foreigner,” opening Feb. 26 for eight performances in the Squires Studio Theatre.

Susanna Rinehart, faculty chair of theatre and cinema, directs the play, which won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play.

The play begins at an old fishing lodge in rural Georgia, where British demolition expert “Froggy” LeSeuer (played by junior architecture and theatre major Kellian Moore) arrives with his painfully shy guest, Charlie Baker (played by sophomore computer engineering major Grant Batdorff). Charlie is overcome with anxiety at the thought of having to make conversation with strangers, and in an effort to help his friend cope, Froggy tells everyone that Charlie is a foreigner who cannot speak English. Intrigued, the other characters begin to tell Charlie their darkest secrets, believing he is none the wiser.

“‘The Foreigner’ is an extraordinary combination of brilliantly structured hilarious classic comedy, overlaying an incisive examination of much more serious historical and contemporary themes about xenophobia and white supremacy in this country,” said Rinehart. “That combination makes it, for better or worse, the perfect time to do this play.”

Written by actor and playwright Larry Shue, “The Foreigner” first premiered at Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 1983. The following year, it opened off-Broadway, where it ran for 686 performances. Shue’s success was short-lived, as he died at the age of 39 in a 1985 plane crash in the Shenandoah Valley. His works live on, however, and he continues to be best known for writing “The Foreigner” and “The Nerd.”

Among the zany characters included in the play are Catherine Simms (played by junior theatre major Sarah Hogan), and her conniving fiancé, Rev. David Lee Marshall (played by sophomore theatre major Joey Barth). Charlie learns of Catherine’s unplanned pregnancy, along with other plot twists involving an inheritance and the sinister plans of David and his associate, Owen Musser (played by first-year general engineering major Gideon Nelson), to seize control of the assets. The play’s premise, combined with its sharp-witted characters, make this performance one that will keep audiences guessing until its climactic conclusion.

Caleb Smith (left) and Joey Barth rehearse a scene from “The Foreigner.”
Caleb Smith (left) and Joey Barth rehearse a scene from “The Foreigner.”

“I believe people should see this performance,” said Rinehart, “because it’s hilariously funny, deeply serious, and, ultimately, profoundly hopeful as to the power of love and humanity to triumph over hate and fear.”

Performances of “The Foreigner” are Feb. 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m.; March 1, 2, and 4 through 6 at 7:30 p.m.; and March 2 at 2 p.m. All performances are in Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. on the Virginia Tech campus.

Tickets — which are $12 for general admisssion and $10 for seniors and students — may be purchased online at the Student Centers and Activities Ticket Office on the first floor of Squires Student Center, or by calling 540-231-5615.

Free parking is available on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets; in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street; and in the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Alternative parking is available in the Kent Squires parking garage and the Farmers Market metered parking lot, both located on Draper Road. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information is available online.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please email Susan Sanders or call her at 540-231-5200 during regular business hours in advance of the event.

The 2018–19 School of Performing Arts Mainstage Theatre series will conclude with William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” from April 23 to 30.

Written by Caroline Davis, a graduate student in arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts.