The Nerd at The Rep is a tasty tonic for our times

Michael Doherty and Andy Nagraj in The Nerd at The Rep. Photo Michael Brosilow.

Here’s the way my Wednesday went.

First of all I had to appear in traffic court to fight a ticket I got at the airport. Got nothing resolved and demanded a jury trial.

Then down in front of my television set to watch 22 of the finest lawmakers in the world ask a series – a long series – of questions about the minutiae of the impeachment effort against Donald J. Trump, who is – shamefully – still the president of the United States. 

Then I changed my clothes and tried to find a matching pair of socks. 

Then I drove to the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and had trouble getting my ticket that would both let me in and let me out of the parking structure.

Then I ordered a sandwich and two soda’s at the bar in the Quadracci Powerhouse that cost me $22.

I was badly, desperately in need of something that might put a smile on my face and proving that Lady Luck will eventually shine, along came The Nerd.

It was nearly 40 years ago that the Larry Shue play had its world premiere at The Rep. Since then it’s been produced thousands of times – Broadway, London’s West End, Division I, II and III colleges, high schools, amateur community theater groups and companies all over the world. 

I was worn out when I sat in my seat. I was semi-grumpy and frustrated with my world and the rest of the world.

But this production, under the sparkling baton of JC Clementz, made me laugh in the simplest way possible. 

A lot of very smart people will argue that The Nerd has a profound relevance to today, that there are deep meanings, that it reflects the search for identity.

I don’t know, maybe they’re right. Obviously they are a lot smarter than I am.

I think The Nerd is so popular because it asks so little from the audience. 

All I had to do was hold on to m Rep soda cup, lean forward, clear my mind of everything that’s wrong in the world, and let a group of actors go to work with a mental massage that proves the funny bone is connected to all the other bones in the body, 

The Nerd is a simple story. The title character, Rick Steadman (Michael Doherty, is an inspector in a chalk factory in Wisconsin. During the Vietnam War he saved the life of Willum Cubbert (Andy Nagraj) who is an architect. Cubbert owed his life to Rick and Rick decides to cash that check and arrives, surprisingly, on Willum’s doorstep, suitcases in hand. 

We throw into this mix a rogue’s gallery of players: Tansy, the wannabe weather girl who Willum loves; Axel, the best friend who is a prissy drama critic; the Waldgrave family – Warnock, a stuffy client of Willum’s, Celia, his neurotic wife, and Thor, their grade school son.

Everybody has their moments with twists and turns that are both easy to see coming and easy to follow once they show up. 

It is absolutely the best easy funny show you can see and the perfect tonic for a world going nuts all around us. If everything were this simple, life would be a lot more fun. 

I walked out of the theater whistling that famous song from Gypsy asks, “May We Entertain You?”

Hell, yeah. 

Caast: Willum Cubbert, Andy Nagraj; Tansy McGinnis, Alex Keiper; Axel Hammond, Jeremy Peter Johnson; Warnock Waldgrave, chris Nixon; Celia Waldgrave, Lillian Castillo; Thor Waldgrave, Damon McCoy; Thor Waldgrave, Charlie Cornell; Rick Steadman, Michael Doheerty. 

Production credits: Director, JC Clementz; Scenic Designer, Arnel V. Sancianco; Costume Designer, Misti Bradford; Lighting Designer, Lee Fiskness; Sound Designer, Pornchanok Kanchanabanca; Casting Director, Frank Honts; Stage Manager Kate Ocker,

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