Falmouth Theatre Guild’s production of “The Nerd,” a treasure of timeless slapstick and sometimes insane humor written by Larry Shue three decades ago, might just be the perfect antidote to this crazy cold winter.
The play opens with a small group celebrating architect Willum Cubbert’s 34th birthday in his Terre Haute, Indiana, apartment. With Willum (Todd Sadler) are his two best buddies, the well-meaning Tansy McGinnis, who will soon be leaving for Washington, DC, for a job as a broadcast meteorologist and with whom Willum is hopelessly enamored—although he cannot quite say the words—and drama critic Axel Hammond, who is prone to verbal fabrication.
Tansy, who is “freshly out of a serious relationship” (it ended two years ago), is also thoughtful—when she could not find a birthday card for someone turning 34, she selected a half-dozen cards decorated with ages that totaled the correct number.
Jody Chiumento plays Tansy and Ian A. Burgess portrays Axel; both roles are their debut performances with FTG but their chemistry along with Mr. Sadler made the opening night audience feel as though the characters—and actors—actually were longtime pals.
The friends are soon joined by another trio: Willum’s boss, property developer “Ticky” Waldgrave (Matthew Gould), who keeps insisting that Willum downsize and simplify the design plans he has been working on for his new hotel; Ticky’s nervous and excitable wife, Clelia Waldgrave (Cindy McDonald); and the couple’s attention-seeking daughter, Thora Waldgrave (Merritt Willcox).
Each Waldgrave added his or her own quirky touch of buffoonery to the onstage action as the saga unfolded.
Another character of sorts is Willum’s seemingly malfunctioning answering machine, from which Willum learns that the person who saved his life in Vietnam, Rick Steadman, will soon be accepting Willum’s long-ago invitation to reunite. Uh-oh.
Brett Baird, active with the guild since 2010, does a delightful job with the role of Rick, a former factory chalk inspector-turned unwanted permanent houseguest. His antics as Rick had some audience members holding their sides in laughter. Think Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean) and you get the picture. And, in fact, Mr. Atkinson actually did step into the role of Rick in 1984.
Ultimately, Rick’s asinine actions become intolerable and he must be told to leave. But how can Willum banish the man who saved his life?
The dilemma may become solved when Axel announces that he has devised a scheme to get rid of Rick. Act I ends with a particularly funny patriotic tribute by Rick and his tambourine, aiding Willum in making his decision to go along with Axel’s idea.
Nell Wade of East Falmouth, in her directorial debut with Falmouth Theatre Guild, must have had a ball with this ensemble and the plan of action for the second act. Some of the escapades were so funny that one had to marvel about the ingenuity of the late Larry Shue in coming up with the ideas for them.
The sweet and somewhat spineless Willum finally does attain a bit of gumption toward the end of the story; an “anonymous favor” between Tansy and Axel is accomplished; and a couple of surprising plot twists tie everything together in a manner that truly satisfies.
The technical parts of the production—set, costumes, hair and makeup, props, lighting—were all complementary to the show and the headsets that the actors spoke into when delivering their lines made it easy for the audience to hear everything and not miss any funny speeches.
“The Nerd” runs through Sunday, February 4, at Highfield Theatre at 58 Highfield Drive in Falmouth. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $16 for those younger than 18. They can be purchased at FalmouthTheatreGuild.org or by calling 866-811-4111. For door sale tickets, the box office opens two hours before each performance.