Annie Simon’s costumes for THE NERD are utterly spectacular. Larry Shue’s 1979 farce, currently in production at New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse, is very much of its era, and Simon’s array of leisure suits, bellbottoms, and polyester shirts immediately transports the audience back to the waning days of the disco generation. There’s even a crushed-blue tuxedo that might make you think you took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up stuck in your parents’ prom album.
Would that Shue’s comedy about the limits of loyalty and friendship held up as well. Essentially a two-hour set-up for a two-minute punchline, this material has clearly seen better days. Marc Vietor’s production, cast with an array of earnest actors unable to put across the zanier elements of the text, is almost entirely laugh-free. Matters aren’t helped by Maruti Evans’ conceptual set or Thom Weaver’s abrasive lighting, both all wrong for farce. Even the opening night audience—stacked, as usual, with family, friends, and other boosters—greeted the proceedings with tepid enthusiasm. But at least the groovy costumes can momentarily take our minds off the decidedly square play surrounding them.
[Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main Street, New Hope]; June 23-July 15, 2017; bcptheater.org.