I’m pretty sure I was a nerd before being one was popular or fashionable. Back in Falmouth High School, I wore blue corduroy overalls with Velcro shoes (before Velcro was a thing). I was (proudly) in the band. I wore a tuxedo to school from time to time. Merriam-Webster identifies a nerd as “an unstylish or socially inept person; especially one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” Yup. That was me. Whatever the definition, however, I think we can all agree on two things: nerds can be lovable, and nerds can be memorable.
Those two things are most certainly true of the Falmouth Theatre Guild’s most recent production, opening tonight and playing through next weekend. “The Nerd” is a lovable and memorable production, offering a funny and enjoyable escape from our winter chills and all of life’s ills.
I had the pleasure of a visit with director Nell Wade to observe a dress rehearsal this week. I left Highfield Theatre with a smile, laughing out loud as I headed back to my car, a sure sign of a successful production. Even in rehearsal, the comedic timing in this laughfest of a cast was impeccable, and the chemistry was palpable. The cast mixes FTG stalwarts and veterans Matt Gould and Brett Baird, who are outstanding as the somewhat befuddled Waldgrave and the Nerdy title character Rick, with newcomers Jody Chiumento, Ian A. Burgess and Todd Sadle. Jody shines as the would-be weather girl Tansy, Ian delights as the deliciously nasty and acerbic Axel, and Todd artfully plays the lovable if perhaps wimpy architect and man in search of gumption, Willum.
Cindy McDonald, who has appeared in many musical productions over the last several years, making her mark as an outstanding dancer, makes her comedic debut and will hopefully be back for more. She is both believable and enjoyable as the harried wife, Clelia. Her daughter Thora is masterfully played by Merritt Wilcox, demonstrating skills well beyond her youth.
When noting how well the cast has blended and bonded, Nell uttered the words that not only define this production, but everything magical that happens in the former Beebes’ Barn on the Kitty Baker Stage. “No matter what you do for a living, this is what we do to live,” she explained, encapsulating in one sentence a lifetime of love of local theater that attracts performers like Matt Gould and his wife, Davien, and tireless supporters like Gil Rapoza back to stage show after show, year after year. “We’ve got to feed our souls,” she continued.
The chance for a visit with Nell is reason enough to make you want to come to the theater. Her boundless energy and optimism are both magnetic and alluring. She came to Falmouth a few years ago after many successful years performing and doing voice-over work in Los Angeles and has firmly planted roots in the creative community within her adopted hometown. She comes from what she affectionately calls “a showbiz family,” commencing acting at age 4 and never stopping since. Her dad was in vaudeville and her cousin was the house pianist at the famed Drake Hotel in Manhattan. She has written, directed and performed for decades. Simply put, performance is rooted in her DNA.
That experience and love of the performing arts shine through in her masterful leadership of this cast. “As an actress, I have a vision for the character I play, but as a director, the vision is for the whole show: the cast, the props and the jokes,” she noted, giving a nod to what she calls the “depth and diversity of talent” in this cast, in the FTG, and in Falmouth at large. She’s right.
This comedy was once the top-grossing American play in London’s West End. The sneak peek I got this week shows why. Tickets are available at www.falmouththeatreguild.org. Nell Wade calls “The Nerd,” “Pee-wee Herman meets ‘What About Bob?’ ”
That’s true, and it has the laughs to prove it. But it is also, as Nell noted, an opportunity to feed our souls.