The Nerd, by playwright Larry Shue, is one of those comedies that have become a regular on the community-theater circuit, lying in wait until someone decides to resurrect it once again. The question is “Why?”Although the premise is funny, it’s a one-note joke, interspersed with marginally funny characters and situations, outdated dialogue, old stereotypes and an implausible ending that is less than satisfying.
That said, the Foothill Theatre Company presents a very good production of this not-so-good play, with a solid cast, good direction and a handsome set.
When we first meet Willum Cubbert, his life is lacking luster. His job no longer shines, his love life has dulled, and his slow decline into monotony is being narrated by his sarcastic best friend. But his biggest sin is his lack of “gumption.”
One phone call changes everything. Seems Willum was rescued in Vietnam by one Rick Steadman. He’s never seen Rick, but he has vowed over the years that he’ll be there if Rick ever needs anything. Rick does, and he slowly ingratiates himself into Willum’s life.
Rick’s biggest sin is that he’s a nerd. He’s physically cartoonish, socially inept, boorish, inappropriate and gross. A little of this goes a long way, both for Rick and, ultimately, the audience, which never does really warm up to Willum’s indecisiveness. It’s the nerd meets the nebbish, and you end up pulling for the nerd.
This is no fault of the always-funny Gary Wright, who portrays Willum. Wright does what he can with the uninspired character. In fact, the whole cast is game, trying to breathe life into the story. Carolyn Howarth is sympathetic as the career girl; Jon Tracy gives us a lovable lumpish Rick; and even Justin Martindale, though saddled with the dated effeminate portrayal of gay pal Axel, is a good sport.