Corn Stock Theatre’s summer season continues with a production of “The Foreigner,” starring Peoria native Steve Vinovich. Marty Lynch has this review for Peoria Public Radio and the Live Theatre League of Peoria. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of Peoria Public Radio or the Live Theatre League.
Summer is here, and Corn Stock Theatre is ringing it in with a lighthearted comedy. The Foreigner opened last Friday to the cheerful applause of a tent filled with happy theatregoers. This is Corn Stock Theatre’s only show this summer that isn’t a musical, so it’s your one chance to see a play under the tent in 2013. You’ll be glad you did.
The important thing about farces is you have to be in the mood to see one. The key to enjoying farce is relaxing and staying open-minded. A tent in a park is a great location for a play like this. As I approached, I was watching the sun as it set, relaxing in the June heat, watching fireflies, and catching the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou wafting over the summer breeze. I lived in Georgia for years, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was back, if only for an evening.
The play is set in a lodge in rural Georgia, but it’s important to remember that it is more of an idea than a specific spot. The important thing is that these are Southerners, and a meek copy editor for a science fiction magazine would hardly fit in here. If he is an Englishman, forget about it.
Enter Charlie and Froggy, two Englishmen that are staying for a few days. The fun of the play is in setting up the premise and watching how it unfolds, so I won’t spoil it here. Suffice to say the conceit is a simple one: the Southerners all react to a Foreigner in their midst. It’s a good natured poke at bigotry. Farce is fun at face value and I have no trouble enjoying it at that level. Every comedy, no matter how well written, walks a fine line between roasting the ones we love and mocking people that can’t defend themselves. The key is in the players. Comedy is hard, and this might be one of the hardest comedies to play. Corn Stock provides a cast that answers the call.
Steve Vinovich is the lead role and the star of the show. He is a native son that has gone out into the world, become a seasoned veteran, and come home to Peoria. My first reaction to hearing that a professional was in the show was admittedly mixed. To be sure, Charlie is a difficult role and it’s wonderful to see a master at his craft. Frankly, his work in Act Two is worth the price of admission. On the other hand, professionals tend to make everyone else look like, well, amateurs. Credit to Mr. Vinovich, director Jeff Sloter, and the rest of the cast that in fact we had a strong ensemble. Cindy Hoey in particular was a delightful Betty Meeks, and Rusty K. Koll made as strong a debut as anyone could hope for as Ellard Simms. Doug Day slips comfortably into his role as Froggy LeSueur. Jeff Craig and Mark Bircher, as the Reverend David Marshall Lee and Owen Musser, respectively, switch gears naturally as they play characters that play multiple characters in their own right. Kerri Rae may be a little young to play ex-deb Catherine Simms, but I always prefer someone that can play the role over someone that can be the role anyway.
I could nit-pick at the details of some of the show, but then I would be missing the entire point of the show. Even by hinting that there is a point to the show, I risk missing the point. The Foreigner is a joy. What more does it need to be?
The Foreigner continues at Corn Stock Theatre through Saturday. Tickets and more information are available at 309-676-2196 or cornstocktheatre.com.