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U.Va. Drama Department Launches 2009-10 Season With 'The Foreigner'

September 21, 2009 – A quiet Georgia fishing lodge sets the scene for self-discovery, mistaken identities, classic Shakespearean farce and a battle of good versus evil in Larry Shue's acclaimed comedy "The Foreigner," which opens the University of Virginia Department of Drama's 2009-10 season on Sept. 24.

When Froggy, a gregarious soldier, "protects" his painfully shy friend Charlie from socializing by telling the lodge keeper that Charlie speaks no English, the would-be wallflower suddenly becomes privy to a swirling storm of confessions and deceit and must reinvent himself as a charming foreigner. His life-changing acting job propels a series of happenings that build to a comic crescendo and a final good-versus-evil faceoff.

Directed by drama professor Richard Warner, "The Foreigner" will be presented at the Culbreth Theatre and will run Sept. 24-26, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-2. All performances begin at 8 p.m., and there will be 2 p.m. matinee Sept. 26. Tickets, now on sale, are $14; $12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members; and $8 for students.

Season subscriptions are available for $73 for the general public, $63 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members and $50 for students.

Subscriptions and single tickets for fall semester productions can be purchased anytime online at www.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu. Tickets are also available weekdays between noon and 5 p.m., both by phone at 434-924-3376 and in person at the Arts Box Office, in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre. A $3.50 processing fee applies to Internet, phone and mail orders.

"The Foreigner" has been a legendary success at Heritage Theatre Festival, where it has racked up two record-breaking runs in decades past, Warner said.

"It's been almost 20 years since we've done this play here," he said. "It is a truly great story with a sort of David-and-Goliath feel to it, the underdog defeating the larger force, and how Larry Shue puts that together is really genius."

And, especially in these times, "The Foreigner" delivers a seemingly dwindling commodity: humor.

"When we looked at what shows to do this year, what we wanted was to give the community laughs," Warner said. "Pure and simple, it came down to, 'Can we find something that will make people laugh in these very difficult times?"

Warner knows the play and the playwright's work as well as anyone, having acted in two productions of "The Foreigner" along with other Shue comedies, including "The Nerd" and "Wenceslas Square." In this case, familiarity breeds respect, he said.

"I think 100 years from now this play will exist in the American canon in the same way 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and 'Harvey' exist," he said. "And I would also include in that canon one of our greatest comic writers, Neil Simon. I'd say 'The Foreigner' belongs with 'Barefoot in the Park,' 'The Odd Couple' and one of my true sweethearts, 'Lost in Yonkers.' The play has that much substance in terms of how it was built and its lasting effect. It has been a season-saver across the nation for years and will continue to do so."

Warner also appreciates that it can be enjoyed by the whole family.

"There is a great adventure story here, and a lot of wonderful things about self-discovery," he said. "It says even to the youngest mind, 'Listen, if you try hard enough, if you are ingenious enough, you can defeat almost anything.'"

The season will continue with "Language of Angels," Naomi Iizuka's haunting tale of a young girl's disappearance in a cave and the lasting impact of her echoed cries and elusive truths on her nine friends that were with her that day. "Language of Angels" comes to the Helms Theatre from Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 27-31.

The season will also include Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid" (Helms, Nov. 12-14 and Nov. 17-21); Chekhov's classic "The Seagull" (Culbreth, Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 24-27); Sarah Ruhl's smart and funny "Dead Man's Cell Phone" (March 25-27, March 30-31 and April 1-3) and the favorite musical theatre fairy tale "Pippin" (April 22-14, April 28-30 and May 1).

Parking is free at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, located alongside the theaters.

For information on the 2009-10 season, visit www.virginia.edu/drama.

— By Jane Ford

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