Review: 'The Nerd' at Dramatic License Productions

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

After an annoyingly long winter, the idea of taking in some lighthearted theater fare can be a good way to kick off the summer. “The Nerd,” written by Larry Shue and currently playing at Dramatic License Productions, is about as lighthearted as theater can get. The script, while not strong, does have many genuine laughs, and the performance by Mike Wells as nerdy Rick Steadman is about as good as the role can be played. That’s fortunate, because the show succeeds or fails on the central Steadman character more than most any other play depends on its central character, simply because the script doesn’t support much else. It is funny though, hilarious even (if you’ve never seen it) providing you have a strong suspension of disbelief and you leave your thinking cap at home.

Cast of "The Nerd" Courtesy of Dramatic License

Cast of “The Nerd”
Courtesy of Dramatic License

Architect Willum Cubbert, played with a relaxed charm by Jason Contini, gets a phone message from Steadman—the guy who saved his life during the war. He’s never met the guy, so with his birthday on tap for that evening, he invites Steadman to join him and his friends for the party. Later with the festivities awkwardly underway, Steadman arrives, and we soon discover he is quite unlike anything associated with a “normal person.”

Cast of "The Nerd" Courtesy of Dramatic License

Cast of “The Nerd”
Courtesy of Dramatic License

Steadman looks like the stereotypical nerd—thick black glasses held together by white tape, high-water pants hiked up to his chest, hair greased back—but that’s the only thing familiar about him. His behavior is so bizarre and obnoxious that he ruins the party, moves in, and proceeds to humorously wreck Cubbert’s relationship, job and life, a situation Cubbert won’t resolve because, after all, the guy saved his life. The less you know about how the play proceeds and resolves itself, the more you will enjoy it.

Cast of "The Nerd" Courtesy of Dramatic License

Cast of “The Nerd”
Courtesy of Dramatic License

Taylor Pietz is charming and gracious as love interest Tansy McGinnis, while B. Weller as cynical, wisecracking theater reviewer Axel Hammond gives his usual rock steady performance. John Reidy as blustery client Warnock (Ticky) Waldgrave is a surprising highlight, and Nicole Angeli as wife Clelia Waldgrave injects some much needed humanity into her role and the play. Young actor Hayden Benbenek as obnoxious son Thor Waldgrave is appropriately annoying.

Director John Contini keeps the pace up and moving along, and the remainder of the technical aspect of the production—set design by Kyra Bishop, lights by Max Parrilla, and costumes by Lisa Hazelhorst—are fine.

If you’re a fan of the Monty Python “silly walks” type of humor, you’ll enjoy “The Nerd.” It’s a pretty good production of a play that can be hilarious the first time you see it, if not so great the second. Just two years after the premiere of “The Nerd,” Shue’s other big play, “The Foreigner,” debuted. It is a far superior and more nuanced script. Oh, you’ll laugh at “The Nerd,” just plan on availing yourself of the bar prior to the performance.

“The Nerd” continues at Dramatic License Productions though May 18. For more information, visit the Dramatic License website, or call (636) 821-1746 http://www.dramaticlicenseproductions.org/

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