Say the word “nerd” and immediately one pictures a Bill Gates’ type
of guy, brilliant but perceived to be socially challenged.
Back in 1980, when this play, “The Nerd,” is set, “nerd” meant a
pain in the neck -- a clumsy, awkward person who could light up a
room by walking out.
The Colony Theatre Company has taken this rollicking comedy by the
late Larry Shue, and refined the “ancient” definition with French
Stewart (of TV’s “3rd Rock from the Sun” fame) in the title role.
In a brilliant casting choice, Ed F. Martin and Kevin Symons join
Stewart, and the three put on a literal clinic on madcap zaniness
making the two hours seem like 20 minutes.
Martin plays Willum Cubbert, a Vietnam Purple Heart veteran whose
life was saved by Rick Steadman, a soldier he never had a chance to
meet. They’ve corresponded and Cubert has promised Steadman a
lifetime of gratitude by offering him whatever he needs, including
money or even a place to stay. Big mistake!
During Willum’s birthday party, he gets a call from Steadman
taking him up on the offer, and a few hours later, he’s knocking at
the door. However, Steadman thought it was a Halloween party, and
dresses as an alien monster. An influential client happens to be
there with his total “monster” of a kid (Justin M. Bretter), who
opens the door to the “alien.” This freaks the kid out, setting up a
series of mishaps that have only one way to go -- downhill.
Steadman creates havoc, as his take on reality is the polar
opposite of the norm. Imagine a caldron mixing a little Jerry Lewis,
some Steve Martin, a touch of Stan Laurel and you get Stewart’s nerd.
He’s the guy you can’t stand, can’t get rid of and can’t forget.
Back in the 1980s, TV sitcoms usually had a cynical best-friend
neighbor, and Symons is the ultimate cynic as Willum’s friend, who
realizes the visitor plans a long stay, and conjures a plan to get
rid of him.
Martin, who almost steals the show as the frustrated host,
reluctantly agrees and the battle is joined. While the situations and
gags are not all that unique, French, Symons, and Martin squeeze
every last giggle out of them, wonderfully aided by Faith Coley Salie
as Tansy, Willum’s girlfriend, and the Waldgrave family from hell --
Warnock, (Jonathan Palmer), Clelia, (Cindy Warden) and son, Thor,
played by Bretter.
There is a little romantic intrigue, where you’re not quite sure
if Willum and Tansy will ever get together, but the best part is the
twist at the end that comes out of nowhere.
Guided by Director David Rose, this is a wonderfully good laugher,
sure to pack the house throughout the run.