Arts & Culture

SLO Little Theatre’s ‘The Nerd’ a silly yet colorful comedy

The cast of “The Nerd,” playing at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, is, back row, Tansy (Kerry DiMaggio), Willum (Mike Fiore) and Rick (Cameron Parker), and front row, Axel (Zach Johnson), Waldgrave (Casey Kooyman), Thor (Dominick Harris) and Clelia (Jacqueline Hildebrand). Director Suzy Newman is seated on the sofa on the right.
The cast of “The Nerd,” playing at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, is, back row, Tansy (Kerry DiMaggio), Willum (Mike Fiore) and Rick (Cameron Parker), and front row, Axel (Zach Johnson), Waldgrave (Casey Kooyman), Thor (Dominick Harris) and Clelia (Jacqueline Hildebrand). Director Suzy Newman is seated on the sofa on the right.

Grab your slide rule and head to San Luis Obispo Little Theatre for the slapstick comedy “The Nerd.”

Written by Larry Shue, “The Nerd” premiered at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 1981 and then opened on Broadway in 1987.

In 1979, kindhearted architect Willum Cubbert (Mike Fiore) is frustrated with his current project in Terre Haute, Indiana. Boring businessman Warnock Waldgrave (Casey Kooyman) is demanding a bland design for his new hotel.

Willum and his spirited neighbor, Tansy McGinnis (Kerry DiMaggio), enjoy a mutual attraction but both are hesitant to commit to a relationship. Tansy is planning to leave for Washington, D.C., to become a TV weather reporter. Their best friend, sarcastic Axel Hammond (Zach Johnson), is trying to guide them to a future together.

Tansy and Axel surprise Willum with a birthday party at his home. Warnock brings his high-strung wife, Clelia (Jacqueline Hildebrand), and unruly son, Thor (Dominick Harris), to the celebration.

Then Willum gets a message on his answering machine from Rick Steadman (Cameron Parker), a former soldier who saved his life in Vietnam. Because he was unconscious at the time of his rescue, Willum has never met Rick and is initially delighted to show his gratitude when he crashes the birthday party.

However, Willum’s happiness soon fades into horror. His hero turns out to be an irresponsible nerd who is socially awkward, inept and insensitive.

Normally gentle, Willum is nearly driven to violence when his unruly guest refuses to leave his house. Axel and Tansy must devise a hilarious scheme to help get rid of Rick and save their friend.

Directed by Suzy Newman, “The Nerd” is a colorful comedy that borders on silliness. The overarching theme of selflessness is often overshadowed by goofy antics.

In Larry Shue’s slapstick comedy “The Nerd,” playing through April 16 at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, an architect must contend with an annoying guest who outstays his welcome.

The acting ensemble does a good job portraying the one-dimensional characters. Johnson excels as the cynical and pompous best friend. His quiet approach and impressive wit delivers the best lines in the play.

Fiore strongly anchors the show as the leading man who is slowly pushed to the edge. Parker stands out as the nerd with unbridled raunchiness.

Skillfully designed by David Linfield, the set features Willum’s sparse living room with a couch, desk and drafting table, with various doors leading to the bedroom, kitchen and closet.

Keith Wetzel’s costumes effectively capture the late 1970s with flared pants, shirts with blocky shapes and brightly colored dresses. Rick is dressed in classic nerd fashion with high-waisted pants, suspenders and large, black-rimmed glasses.

The lighting and sound design is by Kevin Harris. Pam Hester is the stage manager.

In an oddball way, “The Nerd” encourages us to appreciate our lives, embrace love and never forget to pursue your dreams.

The Nerd

7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; through April 16

San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, 888 Morro St., San Luis Obispo

$15 to $32

805-786-2440 or www.slolittletheatre.org

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