SALISBURY — That nerd — he certainly can be … irritating, can’t he?
In fact, he could drive a man insane, and he almost does in Piedmont Players’ production of “The Nerd.”
Give the credit to actor Andy Abramson, who plays nerd Rick Steadman. The question is, why would a nice guy like Willum Cubbert let a weirdo like Rick into his life. Well, it’s an old story, one told time and time again. Rick saved Willum’s life in Vietnam, and Willum feels indebted.
Edward Whitney as Willum comes to his wit’s end once he finally meets his good, old army buddy, Rick. Whitney certainly plays out all the frustrated and stymied Willum’s emotions, torn by his boring architectural commission and the object of his affection, Tansy McGinnis. But nothing tears at him like Rick.
Willum’s hapless buddy is Axel Hammond, a world weary drama critic who never sees the end of a play. The snide lines all belong to Josh Wainright, who is turning into quite an entertaining actor.
The adorable Emily Schuttenberg is the cute Tansy, a girl who wants to get ahead as a weather girl in Washington, but is sorry to leave Willum behind.
Axel is self-centered and critical, Tansy is nurturing and solicitous. She pleads with Axel to do one anonymous good deed, sometime in his life.
Willums’ boss is hotel owner Warnock Waldgrave, “Call me Ticky,” a monotoned man with a little problem of a daughter and an ineffective wife who likes to break things. As the straight man in this farce, Barnet Sherman generates lots of laughs and endears himself to the audience.
Andy Abramson’s daughter, Miles, plays Ticky’s wild child, Thor. Is there any wonder a girl named Thor has issues? Miles Abramson does a great job, screaming and tearing around the set. And it looks like she’s having fun, too. Lori Van Wallandael is the overwhelmed mother, which she plays with her usual aplomb.
All the actors do a great job with their roles. What’s missing, at least on opening night, was the feeling that they really are friends who have grown up together and would do just about anything for each other.
While you can imagine Ticky, Thor and Clelia (Wallandael) as a family, somehow, with all their dysfunction, it would be great to get that same sort of feeling from the other three.
Of course, all have an aversion to nerdy Rick, who might be the most annoying man on the planet, from his squeaky voice to his stupid games to his tricks with the answering machine.
The first act is a bit long, but the second act heats up quickly as physical and mental comedy reign. Pure silliness can usually tickle any funny bone.
It’s not really a play for children, although they may enjoy seeing a bunch of adults acting silly. There’s a bit of sexual innuendo and a twisted plot development that wraps it all up which probably confused some adults. A side note: When Rick arrives, he tells Willum he works at a chalk factory, and the child sitting nearby asked her mother, “What is chalk?” Ah, youth.
It’s a evening with good laughs, and ran about 2 hours and 20 minutes, including intermission. Director Reid Leonard has once again provided an evening of enjoyment that’s right for summer.
“The Nerd,” continues tonight and Saturday and Aug. 1-3 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Producing partner is Fibrant. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.
Deirdre Parker-Smith is the Post’s assistant editor for continuous news.
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