Geek chic

The Nerd

Rated 3.0 Willium Cubbert’s life has stalled. His career as a young architect is in the slow lane, his love life has run out of fuel, his apartment is basically a rest stop along life’s highway, and his get up and go has gotten up and gone. Willium lacks motivation, or “gumption” according to his two closest friends, his wannabe girlfriend, Tansy, and his sardonic pal Axel.

But Willium’s road to boredom is about to be infiltrated by a rather peculiar passenger. Enter Rick Steadman, a Vietnam vet who saved Willium’s life on the battlefield but hasn’t been heard from since. Out of the blue, he contacts Willium and invites himself in for an extended visit, invading every bit of the architect’s personal space.

Rick’s problem? He’s a nerd, a social misfit, a fashion don’t, an over-insistent irritant who utters inappropriate comments. Willium’s problem? He made a battlefield vow to Rick to pay him back, and Rick’s here to collect. Playwright Larry Shue’s problem? In The Nerd, he takes a funny premise, puts in implausible plot lines and ends up having us root for the nerd.

But along the way, The Nerd does give us goofy guffaws, funny setups and a strange yet endearing portrayal of a nerd who’s nebbish but never malicious. You may want Rick to go away, but he should go gently, slowly, into the night.

Part of Rick’s appeal is the portrayal by actor Peter Mohrmann, who brings a sweetness, a Chris Farley-ness, to the role that touches the inner nerd in all of us. Drew Fesmire, seen most recently in Sci-Fi Hotel, is believable as the namby-pamby Willium, stuck with his indecisiveness and immobility.

But the real fun comes from Peter Petty, who gives us a deliciously naughty Axel, a charming snake who provides running commentary and snide remarks. He’s not a familiar figure on local stages—his bio says he hasn’t trod the boards in 18 years—but he is a most welcome one.

Mary Louise Picerno is good as Tansy but lacks chemistry with Willium, her heart target, and the others in the cast—Wesley Travis as Rick’s boss, Carol Miranda as his wife and Alex Stewart as their son, Thor—provide a good support system.