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A CurtainUp NJ Review
The Nerd
Run as if your life depended on it. Then by all that's holy get in your car and drive. Drive away from this godforsaken hell. Drive and drive and try to forget the nameless horror that you've just witnessed here tonight. — Axel
Jonathan Kite and Colin Hanlon (photo credit: T. Charles Erickson)
Playwright Larry Shue came to prominence with a wacky farce The Foreigner in 1984. It was astonishingly successful considering its mixed critical reception. There was promise for more to come but sadly he was killed in a plane crash the following year. A previously written play The Nerd had already premiered in London in 1981, but it did not get a New York production until 1987.

Skillful director Kevin Cahoon and a cast of expert farceurs are having some fun with the idiocy currently taking place on the stage of the George Street Playhouse. You may possibly be inclined to appreciate the play's series of seriously moronic antics that practically defy critical commentary. As an example: There is one almost endless scene in which the characters are coaxed into playing a party game where they must all sit and stare at an apple core as it turns brown.

This game is initiated by the title character, a.k.a Rick Steadman (Jonathan Kite) a man of no discernible intelligence. This thoroughly obnoxious and pathetic person has come to pay a visit to Willum Cubbert (Colin Hanlon) an architect whose life he saved in Vietnam. Because he misunderstands a simple phone message Rick arrives for what he assumes is going to be a costume party dressed as the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Popping in, he scares the daylights out of Thor (good work by young Hayden Bercy), the spoiled brat son of Willum's visiting boss. Rick is also unaware that Willum, his girlfriend Tansy (Kate Reinders) and his good pal and neighbor Axel (Zach Shaffer) are in the midst of socializing while Willum is also finalizing a building blueprint with his stuffy boss (Stephen Wallem) and his uptight wife (Ann Harada).

An overbearing clownish clod from our perspective, Rick reveals his life work is to check boxes of chalk manufactured in a mid-west plant. His intention is to check into Willum's pad for an indefinite stay. He proceeds to antagonize, disrupt and alienate everyone in his presence. Before the daffy denouement we are obliged to listen to Rick sing and play the tambourine, watch his ghastly impersonations of Cagney and Durante, survive his impressions of egg-laying chickens and other such prime-time bell-ringers. The question the play leaves unanswered is whose patience is being tested: Is it the captive cast of characters or the hopefully captivated audience?

Kite, who is probably best known as Oleg, the Ukrainian cook in the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, may be duly credited here with playing Rick as a nitwit of incalculable proportions. In the midst of the play's penchant for stultifying hyperactivity stands Hanlon, as the mainly mortified Willum. Reinders is pretty, pert and perky as the girlfriend. Shaffer contributes the most consistently amusing performance as the flippant drama critic who admits he writes his reviews before he sees the show (now there is a clever thought.) Both Harada and Wallem bring their farcical skills to the fore as the put-upon foils.

As directed by Kevin Cahoon with the obligatory attention paid to pacing, motivation and style, The Nerd achieves what it sets out to do — making the audience laugh at much of this relentless stream of utter silliness. A handsome sunken-living room setting with view of the outside has been designed by David L. Arsenault. All other technical aspects were in keeping with the excellence that is the norm at the George Street Playhouse.

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The Nerd by Larry Shue
Directed by Kevin Cahoon
Cast: Colin Hanlon (Willum), Zach Shaffer (Axel), Kate Reinders (Tansy), Stephen Wallem (Waldgrave), Ann Harada (Clelia), Hayden Bercy (Thor), Jonathan Kite (Rick)
Set Design: David L. Arsenault
Costume Design: Leon Dobkowski
Lighting Design: Jason Lyons
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair and Wig Design: Leah Loukas
Production Manager: Christopher J. Bailey
Production Stage Manager: Krsitin Pfeifer
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission
George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, N.J.
Prices: (from $44.00; students $15.00)
From 04/24/18 Opened 04/27/18 Ends 05/20/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 04/27/18

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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