Nov. 30 2016 11:18 AM

Williamston Theatre shines in classic farce

I would not be surprised to learn that Larry Shue — author of “The Nerd” — was a great chess player. The classic play — which opened at the Williamston Theatre Friday — is full of clever dialogue that builds on previous exchanges. Like a chess master, Shue knew how to expertly move every piece in the shrewd play.

Interconnecting comedic lines became more comical as the play unfolded. The more I understood the colorful characters, the more I fully appreciated them — and the more I realized Shue’s full intent.

A splendid cast helped this witty play achieve its checkmate of success. Eric Ei lersen, as Rick Steadman, was likeable as an unlikable nerd. His portrayal of an annoying, simplistic goof required a level of sophistication few actors could accomplish. Eilersen’s voice switching was also remarkable.

Blake Bowen, as the enthusiastic Axel Hammond, gave strength to relatively minor lines and real muscle when his character was highlighted. His obvious sweat drops were badges of an honorable and impassioned performance.

The young Anne Miranda impressively transformed herself into the subdued and older looking Clelia Waldgrave, playing the role with a convincing, neurotic charm. Alex Leydenfrost, as her gruff husband and bossy boss, had me believing every agonizing grimace and bellow.

Kristy Allen smoothly assumed the part of Tansy McGinnis, and Greg Hunter efficiently handled the role of Willum Cubbert. Kinawa Middle School student Desten Knox, as Thor Waldgrave, showed he has a promising future as an actor. The complete cast capably and convincingly communicated the corny, cunning and complex discourse of the crazy characters.

Director John Lepard kept the rapid streams of cascading speech flowing. Both of the one-hour acts quickly floated by before I knew it.

Bart Bauer’s detailed and realistic set lifted the hilarious “The Nerd” to higher heights. Real doorways — including one that doubled as a the entrance to the theater’s restrooms — an authentic looking, fully supplied closet and a believable window with a view gave the intimate Williamston Theatre stage a vast complexity. I felt like I was sitting in the play’s living room.

Exceptional period embellishments — assembled by Michelle Raymond — included a stereo with turntable and cassette player, a late ‘70s-style phone answering machine and extensive decorations and dishware. Masterful sound effects by Quintessa Gallinat were accurate, and each noise seemed to come from its source, including realistic stairway footsteps and out-the-window sounds.

There were also frequent sounds from the audience. Almost continual giggles and loud laughs accompanied the verbal and physical comedy. When the full house wasn’t chuckling, there were still noticeable grins. In a time of serious political and social upheaval, the anything-but-serious “The Nerd” was a joyful escape.

“The Nerd”

Williamston Theatre Through Dec. 18
8 p.m. Thursday and Friday;
3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday;
2 p.m. Sunday
$25 Thursday/$30 Friday and Saturday evenings/$27 Saturday and Sunday matinees/$10 students/$2 discount for seniors and military
Williamston Theatre
122 S. Putnam St., Williamston
(517) 655- 7469, williamstontheatre.org

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