In case you aren't a baseball fan, the title of this blog post is a big thumbs-up to the quality of the plays and musicals the Enlightened Theatrics folks have been gifting Salem through their Grand Theatre productions.
I feel bad that my wife and I went to see their most recent play, The Foreigner, only last night -- which was the next to last performance, the last being a matinee this afternoon. So my praise of the cast is intended to help spur people to go see the next Enlightened Theatrics productions, as shown above.
The highest praise I can give the cast is that my wife, Laurel, and to a somewhat lesser extent, me, usually aren't big fans of farcical plays. By farcical I mean over-the-top acting, lots of physical humor, and a decidedly unbelievable plot.
Yet even though The Foreigner has all of those characteristics, we left the play saying to each other, "Wow, that was really enjoyable." In lesser directorial and acting hands, seeing The Foreigner could have been a painful experience for us. But the Enlightened Theatrics production was a delight.
The reason: great acting, great set design, great attention to detail.
Regarding the acting, the words that went through my head after seeing The Foreigner were "inhabit the role."
Now, since I know next to nothing about acting, which includes what inhabit the role actually means, all I can say is what those three words meant to me as I watched The Foreigner from a front row seat.
I'm sure I've noted this before about other Enlightened Theatrics productions, but what continues to impress me is that I never feel that members of a cast actually are acting. Which may sound weird, because what else would actors do but act?
OK, I know they're acting, but each and every cast member of The Foreigner struck me as inhabiting their role so completely, it seemed like their performance flowed naturally from their understanding of their character -- as opposed to a conscious decision to act in a certain way.
Yes, I'm sure what I'm talking about is akin to Acting 101, something so basic to acting it's sort of ridiculous to mention it. But even if that's true, the cast of The Foreigner were like doctoral students showing the nuances of Acting 101 at a very high level.
This was really important in a play that stretches credulity in so many ways.
Like, people believing that a foreigner (who actually was someone feigning an inability to speak English beyond a stilted "thank you" to protect his privacy at a Georgia lodge) could learn English quite fluently in just a few days of tutoring. Or, being able to hit someone over the head with a croquet mallet that conveniently knocks them out, yet leaves them otherwise none the worse for wear.
Farcical plays require great acting, or the inherent absurdity of plot lines becomes exacerbated by the audience feeling "Even the actors aren't buying this stuff."
But the cast of The Foreigner managed to make the twists and turns of the play seem believable through their whole-hearted embrace of their characters. Sitting as we were in the front row, I really enjoyed the subtle changes of expression by the various cast members as their lines were spoken and heard.
I was reminded of the cast of "Get Out," the movie that got several well-deserved Oscar nominations. In that movie there were close-ups that showed waves of subtly varying emotions pass over the face of an actor, as if we were seeing the external signs of an internal attempt to come to grips with the situation their character had been presented with.
So instead of bursting full-on in some display of outrage, irritation, joy, curiosity, or whatever, watching The Foreigner I had the feeling of being privy to the mental precursors that led up to the eventual display of emotion. And that made all the difference between feeling "This person is acting like _____" and the much more pleasing "This person is actually _____."
Bottom line: with The Foreigner, Enlightened Theatrics put on another wonderful production. I'm happy that we decided to see the play near the end of its run. Next time we'll get tickets earlier, so I can praise the production sooner and hopefully spur some people in Salem to enjoy high quality live theatre.