The Foreigner by Larry Shue opens in NTC’s New Theater

Frederick Lein as Charlie and Johnny DeBernard as Froggy in NTC’s The Foreigner

The opening of The Foreigner represents a long overdue homecoming to Novato because it is the first play to be performed in Novato Theater Company’s new theater space at 5420 Nave Drive and the first play of the 2012-13 season performed in Novato.  While hunting for their new home, NTC produced the other four shows at San Rafael locations.

Director Jerrie Patterson has assembled a cast that seems almost tailor-made for this production.  Charlie Baker (Frederick Lein) is a shy Englishman traveling in rural Georgia with his friend, Froggy LeSueur (Johnny DeBernard), a member of the British army. The two men visit an inn run by Froggy’s old friend, Betty Meeks (Cat Bish).  Charlie is in the midst of marital problems so Froggy decides to leave him at the inn for a few days so he can enjoy some peace and quiet, but Charlie is terrified of having to make any conversation with the inhabitants of the inn, who besides the gregarious Betty, include a crooked Reverend (Robert Nelson), his pregnant fiancé Catherine (Rachel Brogdon) and her slow-witted little brother Ellard (Parker Neely).

Froggy has an idea.  He will tell Betty that Charlie is a foreigner and speaks no English. This gives Charlie the peace he wants as well as providing excitement for the others who have never seen a “real live foreigner” before. This also leads to many hilarious situations—and eventually to a run in with the loathsome Owen Musser (John Conway) and his Ku Klux Klan boys.  But Charlie, through sheer cleverness and courage, defeats the Klan and all ends happily.

The Foreigner incorporates many accents and notions as cultures collide in the Deep South.  This play needs thick Georgia accents, one cultured British and one Cockney accent. All of the cast give flawless performances. Charlie/Frederick Lein makes up his own dialect and tells one entire story in it. He really comes into his own and steals the show in which Charlie must tell a story in his “native language.”  Johnny DeBernard does a great Cockney accent as Froggy, the cheerful British army man who teaches the use of explosives.  Cat Bish plays the lovable southern lady, Betty Meeks with the right mixture of hillbilly charm and sensitivity.

Other standout performances include Robert Nelson as Reverend David Lee, a charming villain, Parker Neely’s sympathetic portrayal of Ellard and Rachel Brogdon’s self-effacing Catherine.  Parker Neely shines in the scenes where he’s teaching Charlie to speak English.  Rachel Brogdon’s Catherine starts out as a stereotype then beautifully unfolds into something much more complicated. John Conway, one of NTC’s best actors, gives an outstanding performance as Owen Musser, a dangerous racist.  Bravo to Michael Walraven who designed and constructed the set. If you can find a seat near the front-middle of the theater, it truly does feel like you’re in the living room of a rustic lodge in rural Georgia.

Jerrie Patterson directs The Foreigner as a warm, heartfelt drama rather than a farce.  In her words, “One man is forced to act and, in the process, becomes more alive, more connected with others and more aware of him self. As he grows, so do those around him.  By putting on the mask he finds the freedom to be him self…”

The Foreigner runs at Novato Theater Company, May 24-June 16.  The new location of the Novato Theater Playhouse is 5420 Nave Drive, Suite C, Novato, CA.  Performances are held at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.  For tickets, call 415-883-4498 or go online at

Coming up next at NTC will be The Lion In Winter by James Goldman, August 30-September 22, 2013.

Flora Lynn Isaacson