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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011

Soulstice Theatre's 'The Nerd' Provides Zany Fun

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The late actor/playwright Larry Shue was an onstage favorite of Milwaukee audiences. But he became even better known for his offstage work, writing (and often acting in) his own plays before his untimely death in a plane crash at the age of 39. Fortunately, his work lives on, and his beloved comedy The Nerd is back onstage in Milwaukee, courtesy of Soulstice Theatre (the group did Shue's The Foreigner last season).

More than 30 years later, The Nerd is still as funny as ever, its simple premise farcical to the point of delightful absurdity. Architect Willum Cubbert is dealing with his girlfriend moving away for a new job, an over-demanding client and his continuing spiral into spineless behavior—and all on his 30-something birthday. A Vietnam vet (like Shue himself), Willum the pushover gets a call from a fellow vet, Rick Steadman, who saved his life during the war and wants to “visit.”

And then the trouble, all too humorously, starts.

Rick is the quintessential “nerd,” overbearing, boorish, the ultimate unwanted houseguest. But his nature is childlike and innocent, hard to dislike, thanks to the multifaceted talents of Joe Krapf in this production. He turns this “nerd” into an overgrown child, meaning well but still frustrating and infuriating everyone that comes into contact with him. Krapf's tall, lanky frame stands out among the other actors and plays well off of the shorter, rotund Willum, played to great effect by Jason Thompson.

How to get rid of the nerd? Well, that's half the fun of Shue's clever twists and turns in this well-written comedy.

At the start of the second performance of the run, nerves were still running high, as lines got rushed and at times were inaudible. Actors were still dodging their way around a crowded set depicting Willum's living room. However, the seven-member cast eventually found its rhythm amid director Char Manny's overall solid direction.

The nerdy Rick Steadman somehow manages to find fun in any crazy situation—just like audiences who get a chance to see The Nerd.

The Nerd
runs through Nov. 19 at the Keith Tamsett Theater, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave., St. Francis. For more information, call 414-481-2800 or visit www.soulsticetheatre.org.
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