We in the Inland Northwest are spoiled by the quality of our amateur theater. None of the actors at the Civic (upstairs or down), The Blue Door, Ignite!, The Modern Coeur d'Alene or Stage Left see a cent from their performances, and yet we as audiences are treated time and time again to productions that fulfill, in whole or in part, professional-level expectations. Over time it's enough to make you forget that these venues were intended as creative outlets for ardent hobbyists and training grounds for those with career ambitions.
The Nerd, unfortunately, comes like an elbow to the ribs in that regard. Hannah Paton makes her directorial debut at The Modern with this play about an annoying houseguest who's oblivious to having overstayed his welcome. Her touch is far too light, the steadying guy-wires dangerously slack, allowing the production to wobble in a way that's detrimental to pace, tenor and characterization from the moment the house lights dim.
Sean Curran combines Garth from Wayne's World and Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters to create a supremely irritating Rick Steadman, the titular nerd. His nasal voice, roller-coaster vowels, stooped shoulders and jutting hips embody pretty much everything you'd hope for in the character. The snag — largely a result of Larry Shue's script — is that the rest of the cast, including architect Willum Cubbert (Brandon Montang) and love interest Tansy McGinnis (Jessii Arp), function more like living props to react to Steadman than as people in their own right.
If that sounds vaguely sitcom-like (Urkel, anyone?), that's because much of the humor in The Nerd rests on inane, over-the-top setups and gags that ache for a laugh track to signal the desired audience response. There are elements here that Shue would later refine in The Foreigner to much greater effect, but this play doesn't showcase him at his best; the same, sadly, has to be said of The Modern and this production of The Nerd.
— E.J. IANNELLI
The Nerd • Through March 8; Thu-Sat, 7:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm • $13-$21 • The Modern Theater Coeur d'Alene • 1320 E. Garden Ave. • themoderntheater.org