The laughs roll with MFT’s ‘The Nerd’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2001

Minnesota Festival Theatre has literally rolled out the laughs to open its 18th season.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Minnesota Festival Theatre has literally rolled out the laughs to open its 18th season.

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&uot;The Nerd,&uot; by Larry Shue, opened Wednesday to plenty of laughs and a standing ovation at the Albert Lea Civic Theatre.

The comedy is centered around Willum Cubbert (Jay Waldera), an architect and Vietnam veteran. Willum has a lot of potential, but frankly, he needs a good kick in the pants. He’s designing buildings that he hates and he’s dragging his feet on a love relationship with his neighbor, Tansy McGinnis (Elizabeth Desotelle), who is about ready to pack up and go to realize her dream of being a weather girl in Washington, D.C.

That kick in the pants and all the laughter begins when Willum is visited by Rick Steadman (Tod Petersen), who allegedly saved his life in Vietnam. Willum has told this guy (whom he’s never actually seen) that he owes him his life and at least a place to stay if he ever needs one. Steadman takes him up on that, and really overstays his welcome.

House guests just don’t get any worse than Rick. He systematically turns everyone off to what they’re eating, calls people by the wrong names, does horrible impressions, sings loudly and not well, and thinks he’s pretty talented on the tambourine. He does an outstanding job of ruining things with Willum’s client, Warnock &uot;Ticky&uot; Waldgrave (Daniel Jaroslaw), a self-made millionaire who is used to getting what he wants, especially buildings that lack imagination.

Ticky is accompanied by his wife, Clelia (Sandra Struthers), who is about to go over the edge and controls her outbursts by breaking saucers with a small hammer. Behind her extreme stress is their son, Thor (Scotty Strom), who tears around the house like a wild animal.

Behind all the action is Willum’s friend and neighbor, Axel Hammond (Charles Fraser), a theatre reviewer in Terra Haute. Axel always has a biting comment about whatever situation is in front of him.

Petersen is outstanding as the annoying Steadman. From pocket protector, to the strap on his glasses and the toilet paper hanging from his shoe (not to mention the grating tone of his voice), he is the nerd. Some particularly fun scenes involve a game called &uot;Shoes and Socks&uot; and a kind of mambo/ cheering line.

Petersen truly proves his versatility as an actor here; MFT audiences have seen him before in dignified roles in &uot;Phantom&uot; and &uot;Harvey.&uot;

The rest of the cast gives strong performances. It’s easy to want to go shake some sense into Waldera’s character, and Desotelle never sits still as Tansy, the caretaker. Fraser gets all the good lines, but it’s certainly fun to see Struthers fall apart and Jaroslaw lose his cool (and wear cottage cheese). Strom has one of the most fun roles of all, and does a great job with his tantrums, running around the apartment, fainting and getting locked in the closet.

Terry Lynn Carlson, in his debut as MFT’s artistic director, has assembled a great cast for a hilarious play. Plan to laugh until you hurt.

The play runs just under 2 1/2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission. Most ages can and will enjoy it.

&uot;The Nerd&uot; runs continues tonight through Sunday and again June 19-23 at the Albert Lea Civic Theatre. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.

For reservations, call the box office at 377-4371. Box office hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, one hour before show times on weeknights, and from 4 p.m. until show time Saturdays.