Shirlyn and Reuben
February 13 through 28
Winner of two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. An inspired comic romp, equal in inventive hilarity to the author's classic comedy The Nerd. Based on what the NY Post describes as a "devilishly clever idea," the play demonstrates what can happen when a group of devious characters must deal with a stranger who (they think) knows no English.
The action begins with the arrival at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia of Froggy LeSueur, a demolitions expert for the British Army, who frequently visits the lodge when he is conducting military maneuvers in the US. This time, he has brought along his pathologically shy friend, Charlie, who feels useless and rejected as his wife has been hospitalized, apparently terminally ill.
When Charlie learns that he is not the only guest at the lodge, and that in fact there will be several other people present with whom he will unavoidably have to converse, he is panic-stricken and begs Froggy to take him with him on his maneuvers. Froggy, however, devises a ruse. He tells Betty, the owner of the lodge, that his friend is a foreigner who speaks no English. Thus, Froggy explains, any attempt at conversation with Charlie will be pointless. As a result, Charlie who is terrified of talk will be free to remain silent.
Charlie soon discovers that his reputation as a foreigner confers on him a kind of social invisibility. Because they assume Charlie cannot understand English, people say things in front of him that they would otherwise conceal. We soon learn that Charlie is not the only deceiver in the cast of characters. He hears that Catherine, the young heiress, is pregnant and that her fiancé, Reverend David, is not what he seems. He is actually plotting with Owen, the crooked property inspector, to have the lodge condemned so he can buy it cheaply after he marries Catherine and gains access to her inheritance and transform it into a “Christian hunt club.” David is also scheming to convince Catherine that her younger brother, Ellard, is mentally incompetent in order to gain his inheritance too.
With his newfound sense of identity and power as the all-known exotic foreigner and equipped with information and self-confidence, Charlie systematically begins to undermine the plans of the villains. He sets up a spontaneous language lesson in which he purports to teach everyone his imaginary native tongue. Betty, Catherine and Ellard seem to be star pupils, while David and Owen are made to look foolish and stupid.
When Owen storms out vowing vengeance, Charlie and the others devise a plan to outwit and repel the attack. Charlie ends the play completely in command of his world, a figure of uncanny power, capable of routing evil enemies and winning the love of a beautiful, young woman.
The Foreigner is written by Larry Shue, directed by Janice Axford, and produced by Catherine Butler and Lynda Dallman.