By Larry Shue
Directed by Thomas Oullette
Starring James Blaisdell
Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College
Winter Park, FL
Gol durn furriners! Coming in here with their smelly food, odd clothing, and strange silent languages! In this edgy 1984 comedy we meet inoffensive Charlie (Blaisdell). He’s on vacation in rural Georgia (ours, not that commie one) courtesy of his military demo explosive buddy Froggy LeSueur (Nicholas D’Alessandro). Froggy is off to some fun, shiny place like Fort Benning, and he leaves Charlie alone and on the outs with his distant wife. Charlie’s shy and doesn’t want to talk to anyone so he pretends not to speak English. Naturally, he hears all sorts of good stuff, including a plot to steal his landlady Betty’s (Bailey DeVoe) hotel by Reverend David (Casey Casteel). David’s impregnated his fiancée Catherine (Lily E. Garnett) and he’s running the last KKK cell in the state so you doubt how right he is with God. He also plans to screw Catherine’s rather slow brother Ellard (Alex Arbit) out of his inheritance. What starts out as a silly comedy rapidly darkens when brutal Owen (Nick Brown) pulls out a knife and takes command of the situation. It’s time for wishy washy Charlie to take the lead, and when the stage floods with KKK costumes he shows his mettle. This is pretty edgy, particularity for image conscious Rollins.
Act One opens on a rainy night on stage; a passing storm added some extra punch to the effects. I even thought they had mounted a speaker outside. On stage Charlie doesn’t keep silent long; he’s pretty funny as he relearns his native tongue under Ellard’s guidance. D’Alessandro’s Froggy was a bit over the top, but the strongest role went to Brown’s redneck Owen; I wouldn’t want to run into him at a biker bar and he seems to know exactly what to do with a Buck knife. Ms. Gannet was meek and innocent and plays off nicely against her evil priest boyfriend; he became progressively scarier as the show proceeded and you know she needs rescuing. There’s triumph and deceit, tacky trinkets and sharp acting, and this show does a good job of reflecting some unfortunate rural realities. Just bring an umbrella, you never know if the rain is real.
For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html