Playwright Larry Shue’s fame rests on the success of his two over-the-top comedies, The Nerd and The Foreigner, two hit shows that are perennially revived all over the country and probably overseas as well. Little Fish Theatre mounted a smashing production of The Foreigner around this time last year. The company’s current production is The Nerd, a play set smack in the milieu of the 1980s, the time when the telephone answering machine replaced the answering service, which was the life-blood of professional actors and provided the plot of the seldom-produced Bells Are Ringing.
A jittery architect, Willum (Daniel Gallai), has some problems that make him more than a little edgy. He is the landlord of two of his friends, Tansy (Tara Donovan), a lovely woman he adores, and Axel (Ryan Knight), a smart-aleck theatre critic (aren’t we all). Tansy is determined to leave Terre Haute, Indiana to take a weather-girl job at a TV station in Washington, D. C. Willum also has a problematic client to deal with, the oddly named hotel developer, Warnock Waldgrave (Dan Adams).
A Viet Nam vet, Willum’s life was saved by a guy named Rick Steadman. They have been in communication over the years and the ever-grateful Willum has assured his rescuer that he could come to him for help at any time. Rick (Jeff Asch), the nerd of the title, shows up during a dinner party for Waldgrave, his wife, Clelia (Rachel Levy), and their devilish young son, Thor (Shawn Elliott Plunkett). Rick decides to take Willum up on his offer and moves in. His outrageously odd behavior makes life a living hell for the architect. Comedy ensues.
The cast members are excellent actors, many of which I have seen before. The players put tremendous energy into the action. Director Don Schlossman seems to have pushed the players into such over-the-top action that it could said that they “chew the scenery,” and are, perhaps, more than a little “downwind of upstage.” Their earnest efforts do evoke some audience laughter, but not the gales that might be hoped for.
The production is handsomely mounted with scenic design/build/paint by Kaitlin Chang; lighting by Bruce Starrett; costume design by Adriana Lambarri; sound design by Robert Black, prop design by Madeleine Drake; and fight choreography by Rachel Levy. The stage is well managed by Genevieve Swanson.
The Nerd runs through July 28 at Little Fish Theatre, 777 South Centre Street in San Pedro.