Nerd alert

Larry Shue’s “The Nerd” is delivering a wacky good time to the Bucks County Playhouse through July 15

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Nerds unite! Through July 15, Bucks County Playhouse is presenting what is said to be one of the funniest comedies of our time. Larry Shue’s “The Nerd” features some of the top actors in the business, true on-stage connections and an out-of-the-box plotline that will take audiences away from reality, even just for a little bit.

Plenty of laughs: “The Nerd” is on stage at the Bucks County Playhouse through July 15. Pictured are (from left) Gavin Lee as Axel Hammond, Joe Kinosian as Rick Steadman, Clea Alsip as Tansy McGinnis and Kyle Cameron as Willum Cubbert. PHOTO: Mark Garvin

The story of “The Nerd” centers around Willum Cubbert, an aspiring young architect in Terre Haute, Ind., who has often told his friends about the debt he owes to Rick Steadman, a fellow ex-GI who saved his life but whom he never met. Cubbert wrote an oath to Steadman, saying as long as he’s alive, “You will have somebody on Earth who will do anything for you.” Unexpectedly, Steadman shows up at Cubbert’s apartment, but he’s not the hero Cubbert envisioned — he’s bumbling with no social sense, little intelligence and less tact, and never plans to leave.

Leading the cast is Joe Kinosian, writer and star of the award-winning musical “Murder for Two,” who plays the “Nerd” title role of Steadman. Cubbert is played by Kyle Cameron, a Dora Maver Moore Winner for “Cranked,” and his female best friend Tansy McGinnis is portrayed by Clea Alsip of BCP’s “Steel Magnolias” and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

Playing the role of Axel Hammond, the sarcastic best friend of Cubbert, is Gavin Lee, a Tony nominee for Broadway’s “Mary Poppins.” After reading the script for the first time and laughing out loud, Lee immediately knew he wanted to play Hammond.

The biggest challenge for him was figuring out Hammond. After toying with the character’s sexuality and perfecting the fine line between sarcasm and bitterness, he feels like he’s finally nailed Hammond down to suit his ideal of the character while keeping the audience entertained. The cast had a very brief rehearsal period in New York leading up to the show, so some character traits were altered based on audience reaction.

“It was interesting to see what lines were landing and which weren’t,” he reflects.

While some jokes he thought were hilarious got a deathly silence from the crowd, unexpected lines received roars of laughter and applause. For Lee, if there’s a strong dynamic among the cast members, it will translate into the audience. Now that they’re several shows in, the nerves are gone and they’re able to have fun and explore their characters.

“We’re having a real banter on stage,” he said. “No one knew each other coming into it, but now we’re like family.”

Overall, according to Lee, they’ve had great turnouts so far, but he has one word of advice to help audience members get the best possible experience.

“It’s a little bit of a weird plotline,” he said. “You have to leave reality at the door when you come to your seat.”

Though “The Nerd” is wrapping up in a couple of weeks, Lee isn’t staying idle for long. This fall, he will be portraying the cranky, clarinet-playing Squidward Tentacles in the brand new “Spongebob Squarepants” Broadway musical, which will start previews in November. So how will this classic childhood cartoon translate into a stage show?

“Well, I’m not going to be in a big Squidward costume,” Lee laughed.

Spongebob, Squidward, Patrick and all of the favorite undersea creatures will be humanized versions on stage, wearing similar clothing and having the essence of the characters in what Lee calls “wacky, off the wall direction.”

Thankfully, Lee won’t have to officially say goodbye to Axel Hammond as he takes on this new role. When it comes to sarcasm, Squidward is pretty similar.

“I’ll be going from the grumpy best friend to the grumpy neighbor,” he said.

Also starring alongside Lee in “The Nerd” are Grant Shaud, most recently seen on Broadway in “Relatively Speaking” and known to millions of Americans as Miles from the Emmy-award winning television series “Murphy Brown;” Zuzanna Szadkowski, remembered as Dorota Kishlovsky on “Gossip Girl;” and Avey Noble from Showtime’s “The Affair” and NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura.”

“The Nerd” is directed by Marc Vietor of off-Broadway’s “School for Scandal.” Additional crew members include Robyn Goodman, executive producer; Alexander Fraser, producing director; Stephen Kocis and Josh Fiedler, producers; Maruti Evans, set designer; Thom Weaver, lighting designer; Annie Simon, costume designer; Greg Pliska, sound designer; and Alyssa Howard, production stage manager.

The production will have the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Playhouse will hold a special Ladies’ Night performance on Thursday, July 6.

Single tickets to “The Nerd” are on sale now. Tickets range from $40 — $75. Special rates are available for groups. Subscriptions to the full 2017 season are still available. For complete details, and to purchase tickets, please visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215–862–2121, or visit the box office at 70 S. Main St. in New Hope. ••