Phamaly's `Foreigner' funny, fascinating

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Larry Shue's comedy, “The Foreigner,” is perennially popular with good reason.

Audiences will enjoy Phamaly's production when it repeats for a weekend at the Arvada Center Feb. 22-24 because director Edie Weiss and her cast have developed a solid piece from this tale about a painfully shy young man who doesn't want to talk with anyone at the fishing camp where he is a guest for a few days.

His friend Froggy Le Seur (Michael Leopard), a demolition expert in town to work with the military base, brings his friend Charlie Baker (Jeremy Palmer), a proofreader who is exhausted over the care of his ill wife, to stay a few days with Froggy's friend Betty Meeks ( Kathi Wood). She owns and operates a small southern Georgia fishing camp.

At Charlie's request, Froggy tells Betty that his friend is a “foreigner” and can't understand or speak English.

Betty's response is to shout at him, but others just start talking about stuff he shouldn't hear.

Pretty, rich young guest Catherine Simms (Lyndsay Palmer) is upset at her pregnancy and her fiance David Marshall Lee (Trenton Schindele) seems to have a dark underside.

Her intellectually challenged brother Ellard (Daniel Traylor) cheerfully decides to help Charlie learn to speak and read English, which accounts for a number of funny situations.

Can you say “cha-yer,” or “fa-werk?”

And we can't help but reflect briefly on how we might handle ourselves in a similar situation — or how we may have behaved in the past.

Each individual has a different lens through which he or she sees Charlie. And last, but by no means least, is the nasty KKK member Owen Musser, well-played by Jaime Lewis. Scheming to condemn, and then take over Betty's property, he of course is immediately rude and off-putting to Charlie and upset by Charlie's gibberish about “Bees come down ….”

A cheer goes up when Musser gets his comeuppance in a cleverly staged scene, as Charlie saves the day.

Palmer's truly clever, ongoing goofiness as Charlie is worth the price of a ticket alone, with his new buddy Ellard right there next to him all the way. These two Phamaly veterans have the comic timing down perfectly, coached by the versatile Edie Weiss, who is a stand-up comic as well as director and actor.

In her director's notes, Weiss comments that this 25-year-old show is a comedy, a love story — and a wake-up call. “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 1,018 hate groups in America right now and their numbers are growing …. It's not just the KKK. There are hate groups and hate crimes that target Mexicans, gays, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, the disabled. Anyone that is different. Anyone that is foreign ….”

What an appropriate choice for Phamaly's company of players.

If you go

“The Foreigner” plays Feb. 22-24 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. Performanes: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $29. 720-898-7200, phamaly.org. Now entering its 24th year, Phamaly is a company comprised entirely of performers with a wide variety of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

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