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The Foreigner could easily be JCCT's best play yet

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

The Foreigner is the latest masterwork performed by the Johnson County Community Theatre. The cast is filled with beloved JCCT veterans and it’s clear that a dose of experience combined with a hearty helping of talent is a recipe for success. The buzz amongst the audience is that The Foreigner is the best JCCT production yet. If laugh-out-loud comedic theater is your cup of tea, then put the kettle on the stove and prepare yourself for a unique blend of Earl Grey meets Tangerine Orange Zinger.

Written by Larry Shue, The Foreigner is a work sophisticated in subject matter but hilarious in its delivery. The production originally debuted on a Milwaukee stage in 1983 and quickly became a favorite of both professional and amateur theater. The story is set at a hunting/fishing lodge on a lake in Georgia. Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur (Ryan Whitener) is a regular at the lodge and he feels it is just what his meek and lackluster friend Charlie Baker (Ray Branch) needs to relax. Froggy’s plan backfires when Charlie panics at the thought of mingling with the other guests and in order to calm his friends’ nerves, Froggy quickly hatches a plan to enable Charlie to have as little to do with the other lodge inhabitants as possible. Charlie takes on the persona of a foreigner incapable of speaking English but regardless of his ‘inability to communicate,’ he still quickly achieves the role of household confidant.

The Johnson County Community Theatre production of The Foreigner was directed by Judy Walsh who also played the role of innkeeper, Betty Meeks. Walsh has become well-known for her superior performances in various JCCT productions including Mama Won’t Fly and most recently Rexes Exes and her portrayal of Betty Meeks didn’t disappoint. The somewhat lonely but always good-hearted Betty was carried out wonderfully by Walsh. The endearing manner in which Walsh portrayed Betty made you truly identify with the struggles of her character and root for her at every turn.

Charlie Baker, a beaten-down proofreader for a science fiction publication, was acted by Johnson County Community Theatre President Ray Branch. Through insanely fabricated languages and ever awkward situations, Branch shone perhaps brighter than ever before. His ability to catch the audience with a simple expression and a sly smile was the perfect complement to the character of Charlie Barker. Branch was hilariously charismatic in his role as Barker and his performance made it difficult to imagine anyone else portraying the dynamic role.
Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur was played Ryan Whitener. Whitener has become well known in the community theatre realm for his charming and masterful performances as well as his superior ability to employ a plethora of accents; a useful talent for the British character of Froggy. His rolling English tongue and ability to keep calm under the most troublesome of situations made Froggy a loveable character but it was Whitener’s performance that made him unforgettable.

Brooklynne Dunn took on the role of Georgia debutant Catherine Simms. The always-energetic Dunn was electrifying as Catherine. Dunn brought to the stage an alluring star quality that proved magnetic as the fretful but spirited Catherine Simms. As her character transforms throughout unexpected trials, Booklynne lives the promise of professionalism and ever-superior dramatics.

Dean Witworth played the grouchy and aggressive Owen Musser. Witworth portrayed Owen as a force to be reckoned with and his commanding tone combined with his intimidating presence made Witworth the perfect cast for the villain.

David Wilson portrayed the self-described half-wit Ellard Simms. The character of Ellard is a bit like Rodney Dangerfield in that he gets no respect. Wilson had audiences in stitches as he navigated through a sister (Catherine Simms) that doesn’t feel he’s capable of handling his inheritance and a future brother-in-law with questionable values.

Reverend David Marshall Lee was played by Jacob McGlamery. McGlamery was a smooth operator as the convincing Reverend and his mild manner certainly did well to disguise any hidden agenda that may be present. McGlamery has performed in a number of JCCT productions but his role as the good Reverend was easily the most diverse and he did an amazing job of capturing each nuance.

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