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The Nerd
Reviewed By Leigh Kennicott, BackStage

About 10 years from now Larry Shue's first play will join the ranks of classic comedies of the late 20th century, right behind some of Neil Simon's better works. Although formulaic to the extreme, it's just plain fun to watch as decent people try to deal politely with a boor. There is plenty of wish fulfillment in this play. How many of us, for instance, would love to have a pompous boss get pelted with cottage cheese?

Willum (Ed F. Martin) is a normal man who faces losing the woman in his life, Tansy (Faith Coley Salie), to a weather-girl position in D.C. Add a benevolent best friend, Axel (Kevin Symons), an insufferable boss "Ticky" (Jonathan Palmer), and his strange family (Cindy Warden, Justin M. Bretter). Now plop into their midst the nerd of the title, Rick Steadman (French Stewart), with the mandate that he must be endured. The given circumstances begin with an undeniable fact: that back in Nam, Steadman saved Wil lum's life. Now blend on high for about two hours. Shue's playwriting gift was to tie all these threads with a twist that turns the premise on its head and affords the audience a deliciously satisfying surprise ending.

In the Colony's felicitous production, traditionally directed by David Rose, all the shenanigans rest on a truthful base provided by the triumvirate of Martin, Salie, and Symons. Martin in particular manages the most outrageous mugging while staying solidly rooted in character. This allows the rest of the cast, and especially Stewart, to let loose.

Stewart's nerd gives a nod to Jerry Lewis' brand of comedy, but there is a trace of sadness that catapults his performance into the realm of the classic clowns of old. During the final, climactic comedy scene, for example, Stewart slowly moves from distress to glee with a sense of agitation that is palpable. Warden has equally funny moments as the woman who must smash dishes to hold herself together. Palmer uses a priceless slow burn, and Bretter, as their son, acquits himself well.

The Nerd is firmly rooted in its time (1981). While that date is not too far distant, the particulars of the play rest so completely on the equipment and mores unique to that time, it is difficult to update. This production adheres to the period demands, from the answering machine with a hand-held mic to the ubiquitous turntable. The properties deserve special note here, for they are meticulously compiled by MacAndME. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's costumes, which add immeasurably to the effect of 20 years, are r ight on the money. The other technical elements--sound by Michael Fracassi, lighting by David Flad, and scenery by Bradley Kaye--serve the play admirably.
 
 

Copyright 2003 VNU eMedia (Back Stage West)  
Reprinted by Permission  
The Nerd at the Colony Theatre