Tonawanda News

October 20, 2013

Towne Players facing an identity crisis

By Jill Keppeler jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Charlie Baker is a fish out of water.

An Englishman at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia, a beleaguered husband going through a personal crisis, an introvert in a setting totally beyond his experience — what’s a man to do? 

Pretend he doesn’t speak a word of the local language, of course.

From such theatrical logic springs the story of “The Foreigner,” a play by Larry Shue, currently being presented through Oct. 26 by the Towne Players at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center Theatre in the Town of Tonawanda. Glenn Jumper, who is directing the show, said it’s a show the actors know well and enjoy.

“We originally did it in 1995 and enjoyed it so much,” he said. “Over the years, we kept calling back scenes and moments from the show over the years. So we thought, ‘Let’s do it again’ ... with two of the original cast members.”

Mark DiPasquale of Kenmore reprises the role of Charlie, while Joyce Siegel of Buffalo plays Betty Meeks, the proprietor of that fishing lodge. Five other roles have been recast.

“This show is the equal to, if not better than, the original (from 1995), because we’re all gained more insight over the years,” Jumper said. “Charlie as a character only becomes himself when he pretends to be someone else. It frees him up. He starts to bond with people and people open up to him ... people start to improve around him.”

“Things all work out one way or another but it takes a bit to get there. It’s funny and touching and everybody’s doing a great job in it.”

The play, which is set in 1985, revolves around Charlie, who finds the rest of the show’s cast of characters responding to his supposed “foreign” persona in various ways according to their personalities, from mockery to helpfulness to disclosing secrets and scandals they’d never mention to an insider, Jumper said.

“The story is interesting, the character is interesting. The idea of a guy or anyone who feels like they don’t fit in is universal,” he said, calling the idea rather Shakespearean in nature. “Charlie isn’t that person, but he is an outsider. If he’d never done this, these people’s lives would never have changed. It’s basically about rising into the dreams you have and becoming the person you didn’t think you could be. It’s an old story, but it’s nicely told.”

DiPasquale, who reprises his role of Charlie from the show 18 years ago, said that despite the character’s deception, he’s very honest in a way.

“I just enjoy his real honesty about things, dealing with everything in such a basic way, letting everyone infer what they want,” DiPasquale said of the role. “(The other characters) kind of project what they want on him. I think he’s just basically a good guy and he wants to do what’s right.”

The rest of the cast includes Sam Granieri of Niagara Falls as Charlie’s friend Froggy; Bob Aquila of Buffalo as the unpleasant local Owen; Lawrence Rowswell of Tonawanda, who plays the Rev. David Marshall Lee, whose character is in turn engaged to Catherine, an heiress played by Stephanie Hooley of Amherst. Catherine’s sister, Ellie (Ellard in the original off-Broadway musical), is played by Anneliese Ploetz of Tonawanda.

In addition to returning cast members DiPasquale and Siegel, Jumper said there’s another way this particular show refers back to the earlier history of the performance. The art for the show’s program, flier and poster was created by the director’s father, the late Robert Jumper, a prominent local artist who also painted some of the artwork that hangs in the on-stage fishing lodge.

“He’s well-represented in the show,” Jumper said. “Over the years he did many, many posters for us. We thought it would be appropriate to get one last credit in.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "The Foreigner" presented by the Towne Players • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today, Oct. 25 and 26; 2 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: Sheridan-Parkside Community Center Theatre, 169 Sheridan-Parkside Drive, Town of Tonawanda. • TICKETS: Cost is $7 presale; $12 general admission; $10 for students and seniors. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 693-9641 or visit www.towneplayers.com.