The cast of MN Players' THE NERD includes Brian Gillin, Mike Winterode, Ron Hill and Elizabeth Hall. Playing in Swarthmore PA through May 21.

Leave Lots of Room for Rib Rattling Laughter: THE NERD at MN Players

by Lisa Panzer

The cast of MN Players' THE NERD includes Brian Gillin, Mike Winterode, Ron Hill and Elizabeth Hall. Playing in Swarthmore PA through May 21.

MN Player’s THE NERD, written by Larry Shue, and directed by Dani Kennedy, starts out high energy, picks up comedic velocity, barrels into hilarity, then lifts-off into the outer limits of laughter. Willum Cubbert (Brian Gillin), is a young aspiring architect who needs to learn to be firm or risk loosing his love interest, the adorable and patient Tansey McGinnis (Elizabeth Hall). During birthday party preparations the couple’s mutual friend, Axel Hammond (Ron Hill), a wise-cracking Terre Haute, Indiana theater critic (!?!), gets Tansey to reveal her fear that Willum will always lack “gumption”. Is this another romance comedy?  NO.

Showing up among the few, and quirky party guests wearing a monster costume and wielding a large rubber dagger is Willum’s long time buddy, Rick Stedman, the Nerd (Mike Winterode) whom Rick has never actually met in person. Apparently Rick saved Willum’s life when they were in Vietman, and in return for saving his life, Willum promised, in writing, anything and everything. Rick appears bereft of empathy, sympathy and apathy, never quite seeing past the white tape holding his black rimmed glasses together; He can’t take a hint! The debt toll climbs higher as Stedman moves in with Willum and won’t leave, nearly destroying Willum’s work, friendships, love life and sanity. Something has to give or break!

Mike Winterode, Ron Hill and Brian Gillin in a scene from MN Players' THE NERD running in Swarthmore PA through May 21.

There was, at first, some distraction during the writing of this review; as each round of typing commenced, it was halted by a fit of laughter. Remembering some of the antics of the show, and its characters, made it difficult to “keyboard”. The show is stuffed with shtick, and the cast is well constructed. This is especially evident in the silly game of “socks” scene where Rick the Nerd mixes up everyone’s shoes, socks and pantyhose in a bag. Mike Winterode’s physical comedy, facial expressions, body language, voice and unmatched socks as the Nerd made for relentless laughter. In a scene where he hopped onto the sofa singing The Star Spangled Banner while playing a tambourine, a nearby woman had to hold on to her abdomen; Surely an exemplification of “side-splitting” laughter. Willum is smartly played by Brian Gillam, who seems to know just the right mix of emotions to lend to his character. Ron Hill as Alex smoking a cigarette through a hole in a paper bag worn over his head caused this reviewer’s hip West Coast skateboarder brother to let out a guffaw! (Note: There is no actual cigarette smoke in the show). Ron delivers his character’s quips with a delicious dose of dandy.

Elizabeth Hall’s facial expressions and interactions with other characters are not only funny, but beguile the audience into additional chuckling. Cindy Walton plays the starchy uptight “If-I-Had-a-Hammer” Clelia Waldgrave to hilarious precision! The character of Warnock Waldgrave, “Ticky” is well matched to Clelia by some astute straight man acting on the part of Paul Astheimer. The Waldgrave’s son, Thor (Karch Klos) who is referred to in the play as the “poster child for Planned Parenthood” is thoroughly fleshed out by Karch (kudos Karch!).

The set and sound lighting (Bob Bartolomei, Jim Neal, Rich Russell, Mark Walton) are well thought out in consideration of the stage space. Colors and textures are well coordinated and very pleasing to the eye. Congratulations to all involved on this a fantastically funny farce.

For a good dollop of sweet healthy laughter, and refreshment for the pscyhe, go see this show!

by Larry Shue
Directed by Dani Kennedy
May 6 – 21, 2011
MN Players
Swarthmore United Methodist Church
129 Park Lane
Swarthmore, PA 19081

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