The Foreigner Shows What You Can Learn if You Keep Your Mouth Shut

The setting is a remote fishing village. The lead character is a man with few social graces who pretends to be a foreigner who speaks no English, mainly because he doesn't want to engage with other people staying at the lodge.

The hardest thing Alley Theatre Company actor Jeffrey Bean says he had to learn about playing Charlie Baker, lead character in The Foreigner, was how to be “actively inactive.” This will be Bean's third time playing Charlie (“I play him once every ten years) and Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd chose it for its Summer Chills presentation because it's a comedy thriller that audience members frequently ask to be shown again.

“Charlie describes himself as a boring man who takes very little action in his life; a man you would fall asleep at the dinner table with. How do you play boring without being boring?” Bean says. After playing the role three times he says he thinks he's finally “about to crack that nut.”

Because the other people around him buy into the notion that Charlie doesn't speak English and hence can't understand them, they drop their guards and talk freely around him. Soon he is the possessor of all kinds of secrets held by the play's characters including the lodge owner to an heiress, a suspect brother, a minister and a racist. Directed by James Black, the play by the late Larry Shue is known for its humor but as Bean says, “It has moments when it goes dark and it confronts some stuff but it never takes itself too seriously. It is never pretentious.

“By the time we start to get toward the end of the play, the audience is exhausted from laughing so much. Sometimes they wear themselves out,” Bean says.

This will be the last play the Alley puts on in its home away from home at the University of Houston, before resuming its life in the fall at its newly renovated building on Texas Avenue. July 3 through August 9. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. . Alley Theatre at UH, 4116 Elgin. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit $26 to $96. 

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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