Playwright: Larry Shue
Company: Funky Little Theater Company
Venue: Funky Little Theater, 2109 Templeton Gap, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Saturday, December 10, 2016.
For those unfamiliar with playwright Larry Shue, he created several stage comedies, before his abrupt death at age 39 in a 1985 plane crash. His script for The Foreigner won two Obie Awards in 1985, and the front range has seen two crackerjack productions of that script recently (see here and here). The Spotlight Theatre Company production won the Bill’s Best Award for comedy in 2015.
Shue’s first successful production, The Nerd, debuted in 1981 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Shue himself played the role of Willum Cubbert (a central role done very well here by Sam Suksiri). Funky Little Theater’s current production of The Nerd is a loving, very funny tribute to Shue’s all too short career.
It would be difficult (and a total spoiler) to go into great detail about the plot of The Nerd. If you’re familiar with the resemblance between houseguests and fish, you get the gist of it. Rick Steadman (Chris Medina, in a role that seems to fit him like a glove) is “the nerd,” but he’s also the houseguest from hell. Impervious to insults and thoughtless beyond comprehension, Medina as Steadman effortlessly sows discord, anger, and frustration in his host’s otherwise normal existence.
|"The Game of Shoes and Socks."|
Medina is simultaneously charming, disarming, and alarming as the barely civilized Steadman. Medina is the Funky Artistic Director, but he drops all pretense of decorum as Steadman. His inner clown is on full display when he engages the rest of the cast in the game of “Shoes and Socks.” Trust me. No matter how well you know Chris Medina, you probably have never seen this side of him.
Sam Suksiri makes his Funky debut as Cubbert, the insecure, indecisive yet still lovable architect Willum Cubbert. Suksiri wavers between gratitude for Steadman’s heroism and revulsion at his coarse, boorish behavior. Cubbert doesn’t handle conflict well, and Sukiri does a near perfect demonstration of Cubbert’s struggle to get control of his home and his life.
Shue’s cast includes Steadman’s polar opposite in the Axel Hammond character, a pretentious, pompous, proper guy who makes a living as a drama critic. Shue pokes fun at the critic; Hammond starts writing before he goes to the show, and leaves 30 minutes before it’s over to make his deadline. When asked if he has ever seen a show he likes, Hammond is emphatic. Nope. (I can take a joke, but I promise readers that I never start a review before seeing the show, and never leave early.)
|Riley Taylor as Thor. As annoying as he looks.|
Richard Sebastian-Coleman deftly plays Hammond; there were times when it was difficult to determine who is the more annoying: Hammond or Steadman? Hammond is totally self absorbed. Steadman is barely self aware. Neither is anyone with whom I’d want to spend 5 minutes. Sebastian-Coleman never breaks character, constantly asserting his alpha dog dominance while delivering biting insults to anyone in range.
Isabel Forrest (as Tansy McGinnis the TV meteorologist) and Sophie Thunberg (as Clelia Waldgrave) are the ladies of The Nerd, and both add punch and fun to the onstage antics. Forrest is Cubbert’s love interest, and she convincingly muddles her dilemma of choosing between her love and her career. Forrest occasionally lets her cast mates break her up, briefly breaking character. She brings that TV weather gal look to the stage; she’s perky, proper, and chatty. Forrest has a natural stage presence that quickly makes her the focus as soon as she walks onto the set.
|Sophie Thunberg (as Clelia Waldgrave)|
Thunberg deals with anger in an unusual way; she destroys stuff. She breaks the china. For Funky’s sake, I hope they budgeted for enough cups, saucers, and plates to keep Thunberg happy. She gets carried away by the carnage. Thunberg’s most memorable scene, though, is during the game of “Shoes and Socks.” She answers that age old question once and for all: how does one discretely remove her pantyhose in a room full of strangers? It’s not easy, but Thunberg nails it, to marvelous comedic effect.
Jeremy Farrell (Warnock Waldgrave) is well cast as the hotel magnate (without orange hair) who bullies and berates his architect Willum Cubbert. Farrell has the gravitas to pull off his frustration of dealing with his architect/servant Cubbert. Riley Taylor plays the Waldgrave spoiled brat offspring, and he is 100% irritating as Thor Waldgrave.
Shue has baked in a plot twist that ties up all the loose ends, and it’s a doozy. Just when you think you have figured out where The Nerd is going, Shue pulls a major surprise. I’ll say no more, but don’t duck out early. You’ll miss the entire point of The Nerd.
|Jeremy Farrell (as Warnock Waldgrave)|
The Saturday night performance was packed, and for good reason. The Nerd is one of Funky’s funniest productions yet. Having company for the holidays can be stressful, but if you think your company is annoying, see The Nerd. You’ll be glad you’re not hosting Rick Steadman at Christmas…or at any other time for that matter.
This show closes on December 17, 2016.
This show is suitable for all ages, although younger children probably will miss a fair amount of the humor. Middle school kids, however, will relate very well to many of the jokes.
Nearly everyone in this cast (Medina being the only exception) is new or nearly new to the Funky stage. Each made a promising statement in The Nerd. Funky will benefit greatly from their continued participation in future productions.
|Set and cast, The Nerd. L-R: Richard Sebastian-Coleman (Axel), Sam Suksiri (Willum), |
Isabel Forrest (Tansy).
Director/Lighting Design: Dylan McClintock
Set Design: Chris Medina
Original Music/Sound Design: Chad Orr
Costume Design: Brandi Blackwood
Assistant Costume Designer: Cara Marshall
Makeup/Hair: Garrett McCormack
Props Manager: Justin Weinzierl
Stage Manager: Chelsie Bennett
Assistant Stage Managers: Will Sobolik & Megan McManus
Warnock Waldgrave: Jeremy Farrell
Tansy McGinnis: Isabel Forrest
Rick Steadman: Chris Medina
Axel Hammond: Richard Sebastian-Coleman
Willum Cubbert: Sam Suksiri
Thor Waldgrave: Riley Taylor
Clelia Waldgrave: Sophie Thunberg