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Theatre / The Nerd

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The Nerd is a 1981 Larry Shue comedic play set in Terre Haute, IN. Willum Cubbert is a young architect who is friend and landlord to Tansy and Axel. Willum and Tansy share a mutual attraction, but she's determined to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue her dream of being a weather girl. Axel is a cynical theatre critic who was briefly engaged to Tansy in the past. Willum is a nice guy, but not very assertive, and he's being browbeat into designing a very bland hotel for Warnock Waldgrave. On the day of Willum's birthday, he learns that Rick Steadman, a man who saved his life in Vietnam, will be arriving. When Rick, the eponymous Nerd, arrives, he turns out to have no social graces, and promptly moves in. Willum feels obliged toward this man who saved his life, but said life is rapidly getting wrecked by his house guest...


This play exhibits the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Axel is indicated in the direction to be played as being very effete, and the ending of the show implies that his actions through the play may be to allow him to have the house to himself to live with Kemp.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: The show teases this when Rick spins a story about proposing marriage to an 8 year-old-girl with a necklace and her mother being so mad, leading to him being told it's a very sweet story... and then he reveals he was 30 when he did it.
  • Nerd: Natch, Rick is extremely socially awkward, to the point of driving everyone insane. His intelligence is more debatable.
  • I Owe You My Life: Rick saving Willum in Vietnam is the basis for him being willing to put up with Rick's antics.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: After a week of hosting Rick, Willum is literally being driven to drink, the bounds of his gratitude stretched to the breaking point.


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