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Garage Door takes on foreign accent

The Garage Door Theater awoke slowly Tuesday night, lighting up a little more each time an actor or actress waltzed through its aptly named doorway.

Actors arrived in twos and threes, big and loud, carting along personalities as colorful as the characters they portray onstage.

“Hi honey, what’s wrong?” Ben Pierce said to fellow cast-member Kristina Morrow as she shuffled into the rehearsal space.

“I’m pregnant,” she said, mimicking a line from the show. The pair burst out laughing.

It was the last full week of rehearsal for the cast of “The Foreigner,” which begins its run Feb. 15, and spirits were high. After struggling with low rehearsal attendance because of conflicts and a plethora of what seemed to be never-ending illnesses, Director Rodney Dobbs was eager to get the ball rolling. With less than a week until opening night, the pressure was on.

“They’re a great group … when they all show up,” Dobbs said. “We’ve had a lot of conflicts and we’ve been working around those things. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull it all together by the time we open. It’s the old saying: The show must go on!”

This is Dobbs’ fourth time working on “The Foreigner”—widely considered one of playwright Larry Shue’s best works— and his first time directing it. In the past Dobbs has worked as an actor, producer and set designer for the show. This time, he thinks the storyline is especially significant.

“This play is relevant right now,” Dobbs said. “All the news headlines are about how America is treating immigrants. This play focuses on a small country town and how people deal with this foreigner. Of course, he really isn’t as foreign as everybody thinks.”

The wacky tale centers on two men – Froggy LeSueur (Hollis Parsons) and Charlie Baker (Paul Niles) – traveling from England to America. Charlie is incredibly shy, so much so that he and Froggy set up an elaborate ruse to alleviate his nerves in front of strangers.

Froggy comes up with the idea to have Charlie pretend he’s a foreigner, unable to speak or understand English. In so doing Charlie finds himself in an interestingly comedic situation: as people let their guard down, he becomes privy to a shocking amount of scandalous secrets. Nobody knows the English gentleman-turned-foreigner can actually understand everything they’re saying.

“This is a fun show,” said Jocelyn Allgood, assistant director for the play. “It’s a fun cast. When they’re onstage they take it seriously, their characters, their dialogue. Some of them you just want to hate.”

Allgood was once foreign herself, she said. Originally from the Philippines, she thinks it’s especially ironic that there’s “an actual foreigner” in the show. When she was asked to be assistant director, Allgood said she took the offer up, “hook, line and sinker” because, in part, she thought it would be funny.

“I’m the resident foreigner,” she said. “And I’m playing one of the Klansmen, so you can’t see my face. I’m a secret foreigner. Nobody knows.”

Paul Niles, the actor who portrays the foreigner on stage, has just as much fun in his role.

“It’s easy and challenging all at the same time,” Niles said. I get to make up my own language as I go along, so nobody can blame me for getting my lines wrong.”

Ben Green, nicknamed “Ben Also” by the cast and crew, agreed with Niles.

“It’s been great,” Green said. “I’ve enjoyed working with this cast and crew. This show has a little bit of everything. It’s got laugh-out-loud humor, heart, witty writing, and even a little suspense. People who like comedy from the greats like Neil Simon and Mel Brooks will love it.”

In true slapstick manner, the cast and crew were rushing to get everything ready for the show’s premiere Friday night. The cast has been rehearsing for just under six weeks. Still, the ensemble felt ready.

“It’s always a beautiful mess the week before opening,” said Pierce, shrugging. “It will be a beautiful mess two days before opening. But we’re getting everything together. Slowly but surely.”

“The Foreigner” will premiere at The Garage Door Theatre in Pilot Point at 7 p.m. Friday night and will finish its run Feb. 24 with a Sunday matinee. Tickets cost $15 for general admission, $13 for seniors 60 and older, and $10 for children under 10. Special group discounts are also available: A group of five is $15 and a group of 20 is $10. The theatre is at 110 S. Washington St. For more information about the show, call 940-367-0895.

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