Last chance to catch Larry Shue's best-remembered play, The Foreigner, at Virginia Stage Company through Feb. 8. Dennis Lee Delaney directs this comedy about a shy Englishman on vacation who pretends he can't speak English -- only to cause more disturbances than he could imagine. The Foreigner was penned by Shue in 1982, three years before the author's death in a plane crash.
VSC artistic director Charlie Hensley knew Shue when both were acting in Atlanta dinner theatre. Said Hensley, "Funny, resourceful, intuitive -- [Shue] loved theatre and he loved to hear audiences laugh." Shue was also the author of The Nerd and the quieter Wenceslas Square.
Starring in The Foreigner are VSC company members Ken Bolden, Jeremy Davidson and Connan Morrissey, alongside Don Carter, Brian Quirk, Allen Lewis Rickman and Georgia Southcotte.
Previews began Jan. 18 for a Jan. 23 opening of The Foreigner, which features sets by Bennett Averyt, costumes by Rhyan Shipman, sound by Joe Payne and lighting by Christopher Gorselnik.
* Also on tap for the Virginia Stage Company season:
* The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood. (Feb. 22-March 15, opens Feb. 27)
After its successful dual-world premiere in 1997 at NJ's McCarter and CT's Long Wharf Theatres, Redwood's Old Settler is now making the regional theatre rounds. In Virginia Stage's upcoming mounting, Leslie Uggams stars as Elizabeth, a role she already played at Geva in Upstate NY. Uggams, a Tony-winner for 1968's Hallelujah, Baby!, also appeared in Jerry's Girls and Anything Goes. She's also known for playing Kizzy in the landmark TV mini-series, "Roots."
The Old Settler is set in 1940s Harlem, and takes an affectionate look at two middle-aged sisters whose relationship is put to the test when they take in a young boarder searching for his lost love.
Co-starring with Uggams in Settler are Lynda Gravatt, Gary DeWitt Marshall (The Song of Jacob Zulu) and Rosalyn Coleman (The Piano Lesson). Designing the production are Rob Odorisio (set), Susan Mickey (costumes), Liz Lee (lighting) and Joe Payne (sound).
Asked about where Old Settler fits in the canon of current black theatre, Redwood told Playbill On-Line, "I don't quite agree with [August] Wilson that black playwrights should be writing specifically for black theatre. But I do have more difficulties getting my work done. If you look at the October issue of American Theatre magazine, which has the listings of regional theatre throughout the country, see how many plays, in a 3-play or 6-play season, are African-American. And it's not just a black/white thing. How many Latino plays? How many Asian plays? You can't imagine how many good Latino playwrights are out there and their work isn't getting produced. Most black writers write in a vacuum, with nothing to go on but hope."
MARK VIII:xxxvi, Redwood's first play, won a 1986 Audelco Award for Best Play. Other works include A Sunbeam, Acted Within Proper Departmental Procedure and What If You're The One?.
* Dames At Sea (March 29-April 19, 1998)
A musical tribute to 1930s Hollywood, with "blonde bombshells, singing sailors and tap dances galore."
* A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 1-May 3)
This special event (presented at Chrysler Hall) will offer Shakespeare's comedy matched with Mendelssohn's orchestral piece, performed by the Virginia Symphony. This concert event will be part of Virginia's second annual International Waterfront Arts Festival.
Artistic director Hensley is also excited about the 1998-99 season, when he expects 10 productions to be on the boards or on tour to local schools.
For tickets (subscripbtions run $45-$130) and information on the 1997-98 Virginia Stage Company season, Sept. 21-May 3, call (757) 627-1234.
-- By David Lefkowitz