‘The Nerd’ at Parlor Room Theater

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Larry Shue’s The Nerd opened in Milwaukie Wisconsin in April of 1981, eventually climbing to the peak of dramatic success premiering on Broadway in 1987 with a reputable 441 show run.  This sitcom styled comedy has lost some luster over these last 30 years, but the talented cast and direction of Frank DiSalvo Jr. leads this dated material to success in this year’s Parlor Room Theater production.

L-R: Frank DiSalvo (Axel), Amy Horan (Tansy), Dillon DiSalvo (Rick), and Thomas DiSalvo (Willum). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.
L-R: Frank DiSalvo (Axel), Amy Horan (Tansy), Dillon DiSalvo (Rick), and Thomas DiSalvo (Willum). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.

The play takes place in the apartment of Willum Cubbert (Thomas DiSalvo) meticulously designed by Ember DiSalvo, transporting us back to the late 1970s. Ember DiSalvo and company use color block design schemes and faux wood paneling to deliver that oh so charming ‘70s flair. Ember DiSalvo is joined by the aforementioned Thomas DiSalvo (are we noticing a theme here?) in the design of the costumes, also very well thought out. I was particularly partial to the costuming of our leading lady and girlfriend of Willum, Tansy McGinnis (Amy Leigh Horan) with her understated but very retro chic getups.

Ms. Horan is stunning as Tansy McGinnis. Beautiful, with just the right touch of awkward, Horan is a highlight to this very talented cast. It would be easy to lose the reality of the characters in this farce, but Horan is subtle and spot on in her comedy. Playing her love interest and protagonist of this piece, Willum Cubbert, is Thomas DiSalvo. He is perfectly cast as the role. You will empathize with him as he struggles to deal with his world crumbling around him. He is the straight man of the piece, but his comedic skill shines, especially in his pig transformation in the second act, one of the laugh out loud moments of the evening.

Joining the duo as their “faithful” friend Axel Hammond is director Frank DiSalvo Jr. F. Disalvo is worthy as the smarmy theater critic. He has flawless timing, which is necessary in most comedy but especially in one spanning over two hours. His quips keep the audience on their toes through the performance.

Also, very amusing are the Walgrave’s; Ticky (Herb Poe), Clelia (Kathryn Barrett-Gaines), and Thor (Caleb Smith). The Walgrave clan is a spectacle you can only see to believe. Each actor having their moments to shine though the first act, I especially enjoyed Barrett-Gaines in her neurotic plate breaking exercise, her only release from the foolishness that surrounds her.

This leads us to Dillon DiSalvo playing the Nerd/Rick Stedman. D. DiSalvo is charismatic in his portrayal of the exasperating title character. I did find some of his spasmodic movements distracting at times, but he was a pleasure to see on stage. From his tambourine paying to his utterly clueless “shoes and socks” party game, D. DiSalvo’s maddening portrayal left little doubt of his comedic talent.

Herb Poe (Waldgrave), Frank DiSalvo (Axel), Dillon DiSalvo (Rick), Thomas DiSalvo (Willum), and Amy Horan (Tansy). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.
Herb Poe (Waldgrave), Frank DiSalvo (Axel), Dillon DiSalvo (Rick), Thomas DiSalvo (Willum), and Amy Horan (Tansy). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.

The younger audience members may not know who Marjorie Main is and some of the references are from days-gone-by (and they may quickly reach for their iPhones to Google Marjorie and other references), but this talented cast carries the show well and it is an enjoyable evening of theater.

I highly recommend that you make a visit to the Parlor Room Theater this weekend to enjoy this very fun production of The Nerd.  I am intrigued to see what these fine actors and The Parlor Theater do in the future.

Running Time: 2 and a half hours, include one intermission.

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The Nerd plays through August 3, 2014 at Parlor Room Theater-performing at Bishop McNamara High School Fine Arts Theater – 6800 Marlboro Pike, in Forestville, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the box office or online.