The late Larry Shue's comedy about a painfully shy young man masquerading as a foreign visitor and a pair of experimental productions are the only non-Christmas shows opening this week.
• THE FOREIGNER, Larry Shue's insightful 1983 comedy set in a rural Georgia fishing lodge, will play Friday through Dec. 22 on the Lees Main Stage of Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East.
Betty Meeks' Fishing Lodge is a relatively laid-back little place, until the weekend that Staff Sgt. "Froggy" LeSueur shows up with his friend, Charlie Baker, in tow.
Charlie, who is pathologically shy and terrified at the mere thought of striking up conversations with strangers, is stunned when Froggy has to leave him at the lodge for three days surrounded by people he's never met.
But Froggy fixes things up so that Meeks, her guests and others think that Charlie is from a foreign country and can neither speak nor understand English. Suddenly, he becomes a fly on the wall, privy to everyone's secrets.
"The Foreigner" is directed by artistic director Charles Morey, assisted by Anne Stewart Mark. The production was originally scheduled to be directed by guest artist Howard Millman, but during the first week of rehearsals he returned home for medical reasons.
"This is Chuck's show, and I'm doing my level best to help the cast grow and continue to create," said Mark. "Chuck was en route to Los Angeles and he called me from the airport and asked if I could be his assistant."
Mark said she had seen the show before when it was staged as part of the fall season at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in 2005, "but I had never read it until now. The cast was much more familiar (with the script) than Chuck and I were."
One familiar name to local theatergoers is Max Robinson, who's performed in dozens of PTC shows with Mark. He's playing Froggy LeSueur, the exuberant military sergeant and the central character's closest friend.
Others in the cast are Jim Wisniewski in the title role as "Foreigner" Charlie Baker; Darrie Lawrence, seen in PTC's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo," as Betty Meeks; Lauren Elise McCord as Catherine Simms, a lodger who pours her soul out to Charlie (thinking, of course, that he doesn't understand a thing she's saying); Michael Daniel Anderson as Ellard, her somewhat slow-witted younger brother; Christopher Kelly as the Rev. David Marshall Lee, Catherine's fiance; and Jeremy Holm as the menacing Owen Musser.
"Wisniewski has a tough role. So much of what Charlie Baker does is silent, but he gains a personality which is what he wants to do and transforms himself by the end of the play," said Mark. "We get to watch him become a whole person as he allows these others to open up."
"As Froggy says toward the end, 'We're all of us discovering ourselves,"' she said. "We all have the chance to remake ourselves."
Performances are Mondays-Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $21-$39, with children K-12 admitted for half-price on Mondays and Tuesdays (581-6961 or www.pioneertheatre.org).
• THE EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE CLUB at Brigham Young University, Provo, has two diverse productions opening this week on campus a contemporary spin on Sophocles' "Oedipus," running Tuesday-Saturday in the Little Theater of the Joseph F. Smith Building, and Buchner's uncompleted drama, "Woyzeck," Wednesday-Saturday in the Harris Fine Arts Center's Nelke Theatre.
Admission is free for both productions.
The 90-minute version of "Oedipus," using a modern translation by Marianne McDonald of the University of California-San Diego, trades trench coats for togas and an indie music soundtrack for the Greek chorus.
"Our world is shifting to a technology-centric environment; as such, our production strives to meet these standards," says director Maelyn Gandola, who is exploring the ancient text through the use of dance, flag-spinning, multimedia projections and umbrellas.
Performances will be Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Room B-190 of the Joseph F. Smith Building.
Meanwhile, David Liddell Thorpe is directing "Woyzeck," being staged for the first time at BYU. The playwright died at the age of 23 before the play was ever published or performed. Since the intended order of the scenes was never known, audience members will choose the order of the scenes, resulting in a different show each night.It plays Wednesday-Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the Nelke Theatre. Seating begins at 6 p.m. There will also be an encore performance on Dec. 14 at Gallery 110, located on 300 West in Provo.
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