All you have to do is read the list of characters in the South Bend Civic Theatre production of “The Nerd” to realize that this is not your usual farce.
Actually, I’m not at all sure there is such a thing as a “regular” farce because that would, by designation, have to be extremely irregular.
Anyway, what is going on in Larry Shue’s utterly ridiculous scenario is, no matter what, good for a large number of laughs which Friday’s opening night audience in the Wilson Auditorium certainly supplied.
Possibly it is just the sight of five adults behaving more than oddly playing a game that might, in a pinch, be suitable for toddlers.
And it is pretty funny.
The tangled plotline circles around architect Willum Cubbert (Dave Kempher) and his two live-in friends. Tansy McGinnis (Shelly Overgaard), is about to leave their happy home in Terre Haute, IN., to take a job as a TV weather girl in Washington, D.C., In love with Willum, she hopes her move will jolt him into action, romantically speaking.
Axel Hammond (Brian Nolan), the third part of their triangle, is a sharp-tongued drama critic and self-described curmudgeon who was briefly engaged to Tansy and now enjoys sitting back and making caustic remarks.
The trio is expecting Willumn’s client, Warnock Walgrave (Tate Gerndt), his wife Clelia (Sarah Myers) and their young son Thor (Clara Moran Walton), for dinner. Willum is designing a hotel for Warnock (“Call me Ticki”) and the two have different ideas on how it should look.
Into the dinner party comes the unexpected guest, Rick Steadman (Nicholas Hidde-Halsey), a fellow Vietnam veteran of Willum’s who saved the architect’s life. They have never met but Willum feels he owes Rick a great deal .
It’s a feeling that allows Rick to literally take over Willum’s dinner party — and his life, settling in for the long haul as, one by one, the others find his crass behavior more than they can handle.
No one, however, refuses to play Rick’s wild and messy games (“Shoes and Socks” — use your imagination) and he continues to settle in for a long stay. When Willum has finally had too much, he attempts to oust his nerdy guest with some bizarre games of his own!
The players obviously are having a good time with their off-beat characters, a feeling that transmits itself to the audience. It is to their credit that no one breaks character!
Underneath all the craziness lie a few sobering questions: How far should gratitude go? How far should friendship excuse bad behavior? How long should relationships be ignored?
Not enough to overcome the laughs, but something to think about when the last bit of cottage cheese has flown.
The off-the-wall scenario is played out on an appropriately middle-class set — complete with necessarily sturdy doors (this is a farce, you know) by designer and scenic artist Jeff Barrick. It fills the wide proscenium of the auditorium and provides the actors plenty of room in which to “play.” Most of the time, however, they are grouped around the octagonal coffee table playing the game.
The eclectic furniture around the table for some reason includes one molded-plastic chair into which Tansy climbs with obvious difficulty. Its purpose is revealed when another uses It, but it seems a long way to go for a short laugh.
Sound-wise, the recent work done on the auditorium sound system is worth whatever it cost! The actors are miked and every word comes through as clear as a bell.
Under the direction of Leigh Taylor and assistant director Laura Moran Walton , the action moves crisply and quickly, stopping frequently for laughs!
Even if you find most farces as un-funny as I do, you won’t be able to stop laughing at this Nerd.
“THE NERD” plays Wednesday through Sunday in the Marjorie H. and James M. Wilson Auditorium, 403 N. Main St., South Bend For information and reservations call (574) 234-1112