David B. Reynolds is truly an unparalleled foreigner in these parts.
That might seem a strange thing to say about a local actor who has been on every area stage since he broke in with the Children's Theatre of Annapolis nearly 15 years ago. But when you see the hilarious Mr. Reynolds as Charlie Baker in the new Chesapeake Music Hall production of Larry Shue's play "The Foreigner," you'll know what I mean.
Brit Charlie Baker is such a bore that his own wife can't bear having him around -- even when she's on her death bed.
On a quick trip to Georgia to visit an old army buddy, Charlie becomes so panic-stricken at the thought of having to make chit-chat with his fellow guests at Betty Meeks' broken-down hotel, that his friend passes him off as a foreigner who speaks and understands no English. Charlie takes on this new persona, and an amazing transformation occurs. As all his disowned creativity comes to the fore, this staid, colorless chap begins to light up the lives of the terminal oddballs who frequent the Southern resort. He even foils a Ku Klux Klan land grab.
Mr. Reynolds is just wonderful as Charlie. With a face that never stops moving, his expressions are priceless. And he is even more hilarious once he starts talking. His mangled English is truly funny, and the fractured fairy-tale account of Little Red Riding told in some sort of "Bosni-slovaki-govinian" tongue is worth the price of a ticket.
You'll also get a kick out of Jim Gallagher as Ellard Simms, the young dimwit who flowers as -- egad -- he teaches Charlie English. Mr. Gallagher is a study in concentrated physical humor. The eyes blink, stare vacantly and betray total panic -- all at the same time.
Donna Revelle Boellner is also quite good as Katherine, the spoiled Georgia Peach who adopts the unspeaking Charlie as her confidant.
Tim King does an excellent job as the sleazy clergyman to whom Katherine is engaged. If you dislike this guy but can't figure out why, stick around.
Peter Kaiser does great things with moronic Owen Musser, the Grand Local Sleazemaster of the Ku Klux Klan who doesn't take kindly to being ridiculed by this "foreigner." Carol Cohen as Betty is a delightful study in scatterbrained geriatric virtue, and Cary Miles is pleasant, if a tad subdued, as Charlie's friend, Froggy LeSeur.
The production builds to moments of great humor and genuine suspense in Act II, but there is a fair amount of hemming and hawing in the first act that could easily be excised. Everyone spends so much time establishing the quirky mannerisms of their characters that the flow of the play is impaired.
But, like Charlie in Georgia, this "Foreigner" is truly a welcome visitor.
"The Foreigner" plays though April 2. Call 626-7515 for ticket