By Daniel Skora
Playwright Larry Shue died much too young at the age of 39. But he left us with two comedies that have become classics of the American stage. Both plays are crowd pleasers and can frequently be found on the performance schedules of many types of theatres. It was “the Foreigner” that brought Shue the attention he deserved; it’s the play’s “younger brother”, “The Nerd”, that’s currently being presented by the Williamston Theatre in a terrifically amusing and thoroughly enjoyable production.
“The Nerd” is a laugh-fest that starts out slow. Willum Cubbert (Greg Hunter), an architect, is having a party to celebrate his 34th birthday. Assisting him as hostess is his long-time friend Tansy McGinnis (Kristy Allen). Willum and Tansy have been involved in a relationship for some time, but Will claims to be too busy with work to make any kind of commitment. Also at the party is long-time friend Alex Hammond (Blake Bowen), an acerbic drama critic.
Other guests include Warnock Waldgrave (Alex Leydenfrost) a financier and client of Will’s. Waldgrave has brought along his wife Ciella (Anne Miranda) and young son Thor (Desten Knox). The party has not begun very well because the extremely demanding Waldgrave has become highly critical of the designs Will has shown for the hotel he is going to build. And not surprisingly, with a knock on the door, the party is going to be getting much worse very quickly.
While serving in Vietnam, Willum’s life was saved by a man he never met but with whom he has corresponded over the years. So when he gets a call on his answering machine (the play takes place in the late 1970’s) saying that Rick Steadman, the man who saved his life, is in town and would like to stop by to say hello, Will is excited beyond belief. Steadman, nicely played by Eric Eilersen, is not your typical war hero. He is, in fact, the nerd of the play’s title, and if his glasses and white shirt and tie don’t immediately give him away, there can be doubt as to his pedigree when an annoyingly nasal whine begins draining from his mouth the first time he speaks.
Everyone’s tolerant at first, but when Rick begins banging on a tambourine and wanting to play party games like “Shoes and Sox”, their patience begins to wane. Something must be done to send Rick on his merry way, be he lifesaver or not. Act 2 brings with it a calculated scheme to do just that. As the old saying goes (with a twist, of course): “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.
“The Nerd” is one funny play and director John Lepard and cast do a fantastic job of bringing out all of the comic possibilities the play has to offer. It builds to a crescendo of madcap hilarity, and if there’s one other takeaway other than the good time you’ll have, it’s knowing the rules for “Shoes and Sox” so you too can play at your next party.
The set by designer Bartley H. Bauer is a fashionable apartment replete with all those things you’d expect from a young professional, like books and records. It marks a milestone for Mr. Bauer with “The Nerd” being his 100th design for local theatres. Costumes are by Holly Iler, with sound by Quintessa Gallinat and lighting by Christopher Stowell. Props come courtesy of Michelle Raymond.
“The Nerd” is a collaboration between Williamston and Michigan State’s Theatre Department. The show runs through December 18th. Tickets can be purchased by phone Tuesday through Friday from Noon to 6:00p.m., by calling 517.655.7469, by visiting the Williamston box office, or ordered online up until 24 hours prior to the performance by going online at www.williamstontheatre.org. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam Road in downtown Williamston. Take I-96 west and get off at Exit 117.