"The Foreigner"

A Full Length Play by Larry Shue

The Foreigner by Larry Shue
What does it mean to be a foreigner who does not speak the language?. FPG

Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur and has dragged his depressed and socially awkward friend, Charlie, to rural Georgia. Sgt. Froggy has business with the bomb squad at the nearby army training base. Charlie’s wife lies in a hospital back in England and she has less than six months to live. She requested that Froggy take Charlie with him to America. Charlie believes that his wife wants him gone - not because she doesn’t want him to see her sick in bed - but because she is bored of him.

And actually, the fact that she has had 23 affairs backs up his belief. So Froggy and Charlie check in to Betty Meeks’ Fishing Lodge Resort in Tilghman County, Georgia.

In order to ease Charlie’s anxiety over talking to strangers, Froggy introduces Charlie to Betty as a foreigner who has no knowledge of the English language. Betty is thrilled to meet someone from another country. She is an elderly woman who has never had a chance to experience the world beyond her small county. Betty informs all the other guests in her lodge that Charlie does not speak or understand a word of English. Because people then speak freely around him, Charlie learns the deep dark secrets of David and Owen and starts to make genuine friendships with Betty, Catherine, and Ellard.

Charlie is able to maintain his false personality as a foreigner through the end of the play. Only Catherine has a sneaking suspicion about his ability to understand English.

Charlie gives himself away to her when he is trying to inspire Ellard to have confidence by referencing a conversation he overheard before Ellard began to teach him English.

The Foreigner culminates in a scene in which Charlie, Betty, Ellard, and Catherine must outwit and defend themselves against a Ku Klux Klan mob.

Through clever thinking, Charlie’s background in science fiction proof-reading, and the use of the Klans’ own fears, Betty, Charlie, Catherine, and Ellard scare the Klan off and keep Betty’s property.

Production Details

Setting: Betty Meek’s Fishing Lodge Resort lobby

Time: The recent past (Although the play was originally produced in 1984 and “recent past” may more accurately be narrowed down to the 1960’s-70’s).

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 7 actors and the possibility of a “crowd” of Klan members.

Male Characters: 5

Female Characters: 2

Characters that could be played by males or females: 0

Roles

Sgt. Froggy LeSueur is a bomb squad specialist. He has an easygoing personality and can make friends with anyone from anywhere. He enjoys his job, especially when he can blow up a mountain or van.

Charlie Baker is not comfortable with new people or confident in himself. Conversation, especially with strangers, is terrifying. When he speaks his “native language,” he actually speaks in gibberish. He is delightfully surprised to find he likes the people in the Resort and wants to get invested in their lives.

Betty Meeks is the widow of Omer Meeks. Omer was responsible for most of the upkeep of the fishing lodge and although Betty is doing her best, she is unable to make the necessary repairs to keep the place running.

In her old age, Betty is wise about anything related to her life in Georgia, but the outside world is beyond her capacity to comprehend. She likes to think that she shares a psychic connection with the foreigner Charlie.

Rev. David Marshall Lee is Catherine’s handsome and good-natured fiancé. He appears to be an all around all-American type of guy who wants nothing but the best for Catherine, Betty, Ellard and Tilghman County. But is he?

Catherine Simms is Rev. David’s fiancé. She is at first bossy, domineering, and self-centered but those traits cover up her underlying insecurities and grief. She has recently lost her parents, her status as a debutante, and she has just found out that she is pregnant. She uses Charlie as the silent therapist she needs to confess to him all her troubles and secrets.

Owen Musser is “a two tattoo man.” A man can get one tattoo if he is drunk or on a dare, but to go back for a second is cause for concern. Owne and his two tattoos are on a path to rule Tilghman County. He has plans to make Betty Meek’s Fishing Lodge Resort the new KKK headquarters. He will first have to ruin Betty by condemning her building or running her straight out of town. Betty’s new foreigner friend is providing him the perfect opportunity to incite his fellow Klan members and get her house and land for cheap.

Ellard Simms is Catherine’s brother. He is mentally challenged in an unspecified way, but not as dumb and slow and Rev. David is framing him to look. He can be taught and can learn a trade and with Charlie’s help, he can save the day. Charlie’s confidence in him as a teacher helps everyone begin to see Ellard in a new and useful way.

Production Notes

The set is the lobby of Betty Meek’s Fishing Lodge Resort. It should resemble a cluttered living room with a counter that sells candy, Cokes, and tobacco products, and has a guest register and a bell. Once this lodge was a populated lake house, but due to Betty’s limitations and competing resorts, the place has fallen into disrepair.

The most important aspect of the set is a trapdoor in the center of the stage floor. This trap door is essential to the final scene of the play. Production notes in the back of the script from Dramatist Play Service describe in detail the use of the trapdoor.

Playwright Larry Shue has specific character notes included in the script in both the stage directions and character descriptions.

He specifies that the villains not be portrayed as “comedy villains.” They are members of the Klan and must be truly cunning, obsessive, and dangerous. While it is true the play is a comedy, Larry Shue is insistent that at first the audience must recoil before they can find the humor. He also notes that the actor playing Charlie make finding his “foreigner” language a process that develops slowly scene by scene. Talking to people, in any language, should be a struggle for the Charlie character.

Content Issues: KKK mob scene

Production rights for The Foreigner are held by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.