Theatre Reviews
Photo by John Gitchoff courtesy of Moonstone Theatre

Moonstone Theatre Company returns to the stage this summer with a modern classic farce that's sure to keep audiences laughing. Larry Shue's “The Nerd,” directed by Gary Wayne Barker, is a fun, often silly and even ridiculous comedy that requires precise timing and fully committed performances. Fortunately, this production has all that and more, for a truly entertaining laugh-fest of a production.

The story is fairly simple at first, but the surprises start early and keep going. In 1981 Terre Haute, Indiana, the earnest architect Willum Cubbert is celebrating his 34th birthday and dealing with a series of frustrations, including a job designing a hotel for a demanding client; a possible end to a relationship before it really begins, as would-be girlfriend Tansy is about to leave town to pursue a dream job; and essentially a life of being somewhat of a doormat. His friends, Tansy and the curmudgeonly theatre critic Axel, hope that Willum can find a way to stand up for himself, but Willum insists he's fine. Soon, however, Willum's life is disrupted by the arrival of Rick Steadman, a nerdy, unconventional, and increasingly clingy fellow to whom Willum feels obligated since Rick apparently saved Willum's life years before in the Vietnam War. Rick's oddities add frustration to Willum's life, awkwardly derailing a dinner party with the client, Warnock "Ticky" Waldgrave, his nervous wife Clelia, and incorrigible young son, Thor. As Rick's intrusion and eccentricities get increasingly more difficult to bear, it's only a matter of time before Willum is pushed to the breaking point. Along the way, much hilarity ensues, with a series of pratfalls, difficult situations, and awkwardness that builds up over the course of this hilarious farce and threatens to strain plausibility, although the comedy is so well-timed and the situations so well-structured, that by the time the somewhat surprising ending rolls around, it should be clear that the sheer comedic value of this show is its most important point.

The script isn't merely goofy, though. There is a good deal of wit and snark, as well, mostly coming from Axel, who is played with impressive flair by Bryce A. Miller. Bridgette Bassa is also memorable as the conflicted Tansy, who clearly cares for Willum and has believable chemistry with the supremely likable Oliver Bacus, who plays Willum's increasing exasperation well. Greg Johnston and Leslie Wobbe have excellent moments as the stuffy Waldgrave and stressed-out Clelia, along with Kieran Thompson as the increasingly confused and terrified young Thor. The real scene-stealer here, though, is Ryan Lawson-Maeske in an expertly played turn as the seemingly obliviously annoying Rick. His Rick is so enthusiastically weird, and perfectly timed in his oddity. The scenes between Lawson-Maeske and Bacus are especially strong, and there's also a wonderful, cohesive sense of ensemble chemistry that makes the wackiness even more hilarious.

The setting for all the madcap hijinks is ideal, with a fully realized set by Dunsi Dai, period-specific costumes by Michele Friedman Siler, and excellent lighting by Denisse Chavez and sound by Amanda Werre. It's not a tech-heavy show, but all the technical elements work well to support the well-orchestrated chaos that ensues in the course of the plot.

“The Nerd” is, to put it simply, a ridiculously funny play. If you're looking for a good laugh, this first-rate production is well worth checking out. It's another strong staging from Moonstone Theatre Company.

Performances of “The Nerd” from Moonstone Theatre Company continue at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center until July 23. For more information, visit

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