‘The Nerd’ opens May 12 at Star City Playhouse in Vinton

“The Nerd” opens at the Star City Playhouse on May 12 and runs through May 28 with performances on Friday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday matinees. Members of the cast include (from left): seated, Michael Ridenhour, Latriva Pierce, and Eva Pierce; standing, Chris Reidy and Gene Marrano. Not shown are Diane Heard and Patrick Regal.
Chris Reidy plays the Nerd in the comedy– the houseguest from hell lacking social sense, intelligence, and tact.

Star City Playhouse opens its second full-length production of the 2017 season on May 12 with “The Nerd.”

“The Nerd” is a comedy in two acts with a cast of seven, including Chris Reidy, Patrick Regal, Eva Pierce, Gene Marrano, Michael Ridenhour, Latriva Pierce, and Diane Heard.

Star City Playhouse owner and director Marlow Ferguson describes  “The Nerd” as the story of Willum Cubbert, a young architect, his love interest Tansy, and Rick Steadman (the Nerd), who saved his life in Vietnam by carrying him out of battle. Cubbert promised Steadman that he could come to him for help at any time. They only communicated occasionally through the years until Steadman shows up unexpectedly at a dinner Cubbert is hosting, throws the party into bedlam, and takes up residence— the houseguest from hell who outstays his welcome. The Nerd has “no social sense, little intelligence, and even less tact.”

Chris Reidy is Rick Steadman, a.k.a. “Nerd” in this production. Reidy says he has done many shows with Star City Playhouse in the 10 or so years he has lived in the area. This will be his first in their new Vinton location. He has worked with Showtimers, Attic, Off the Rails, and The Little Town Players. He is originally from the Boston area. He lived and worked in Hollywood for a time where he was the co-founder of The Off-Hollywood Theater Company. He is also a writer and visual artist.

“Rick Steadman is from Wisconsin and in 1971 he saved the life of a fellow serviceman named Willum,” explains Reidy. “Eight years later they meet for the first time and Rick more or less moves in with Willum. Rick likes to do things like play the tambourine, sing really loud, sleep on Willum’s couch and generally drive him crazy. Rick is more than just a nerd. He’s a pain in the neck; but he has no idea how annoying he is. And poor Willum can’t bring himself to throw Rick out, since he saved his life.

“It’s a very funny play,” Reidy continues. “It was written by Larry Shue, who also wrote ‘The Foreigner’ which is a very popular play and performed a lot. It’s a wacky comedic farce with a plot that’s a bit like ‘The Nerd.’ ‘The Foreigner’ was performed a few years ago by the Star City Playhouse and I played Charlie, the title character. It was so much fun to do, that I absolutely wanted to have that kind of fun again and now I get to in ‘The Nerd.’

“The other appealing thing about the character is that (not to give away any plot twists) he is multi-layered,” adds Reidy. “He may have a secret or two, so it’s interesting to play that aspect of the character. You kind of have to put your brain in the coat-check though, in order to play Rick Steadman. He’s not the brightest bulb in the picnic basket, so for an actor, it’s great fun to play that, and to try to bring the specifics of the Wisconsinian personality to life. And of course, to make the audience laugh!”

Patrick Regal plays the role of Willum Cubbert. He is a 2015 graduate of Patrick Henry High School and studied theatre at Fresno State. He has acting experience in several productions locally and in California and also technical experience as an assistant stage manager and in set design.

Cubbert’s love interest Tansy is played by Eva Pierce who is 16 and a sophomore at William Byrd High School. Earlier this year she appeared in the WBHS One-Act production of  “Little Women” as Jo March. She also played Mother Superior in the Burton Center for the Performing Arts “Sister Act.” She describes “The Nerd” as a “night full of laughter.”

Gina Pierce says daughter Eva has been singing opera since she was 0 and wants to pursue a career in musical theatre on Broadway.

Eva’s younger sister Latriva Pierce appears as Thorina Waldgrave in “The Nerd.” Latriva is 12 years old and a sixth grader at William Byrd Middle School. She has had roles in several Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre plays, including  Toto in “The Wizard of Oz,” and also played Marta in “The Sound of Music” with the Bagley Community Theater.

Gene Marrano performed in “Shakespeare in Love,” the first production by Star City Playhouse in Vinton back in February and his first time appearing with the company. He is well known throughout the region as a print and broadcast journalist and editor. A couple of years ago, Marrano experienced a “middle-age creative crisis” and took up acting. He had become acquainted with the Fergusons several years ago and Ferguson recruited him to join the “Shakespeare in Love” cast.

“I have done the 24-hour concept-to-stage 10-minute play event at Mill Mountain Theatre called ‘Overnight Sensations’ for a number of years,” said Marrano. “A few years ago I started dabbling in full-length plays, mostly in very small parts. My last two roles have been bigger as I get more comfortable on stage and with the process.”

He has worked with Attic Productions in Fincastle, Showtimers, and Off the Rails in Roanoke. Marrano is excited about working with Star City and Marlow Ferguson, who he describes as “quite the character. He’s worked with prominent people in the New York area and even taught some acting chops to a young Tommy Lee Jones.”

Marrano plays the role of Axel, who he describes as “a snarky smart aleck trying to fix up a female neighbor with a friend. It’s the part that really appealed to me. I think I can do snarky.”

Michale Ridenhour plays the role of Waldgrave.

“My character, Warnock Waldgrave, or “Ticky,” as he likes to be called, is a successful businessman, and owner of six hotels, who hires Willum Cubbert as his architect for his newest hotel, the Regency,” says Ridenhour. “He is a vain, blustering man who dominates his long suffering wife and timid daughter. He is humorless and falls for the Nerd’s needling at every opportunity. “

“The last lead part I had was as Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Attic last year,” Ridenhour said. “Hmm– maybe there’s a pattern here. But I played the young tenor lead in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas years ago. At my present age you play character parts.”

He has appeared in many productions with Showtimers, Attic Productions, Gamut Theater, (now Off The Rails), Virginia Western and Star City Productions. He notes that he has  been in theater since he was six, with the Broadway on the Road of the early 1950’s.He is a retired audiologist. Ridenhour has lived in Roanoke his entire life and adds that “both sides of my family, parents and grandparents are buried in Vinton at Mountain View Cemetery.

Diane Heard takes on the role of Waldgrave’s wife, Clelia. She has been involved in theatre in the valley for many years.

“The Nerd” runs for three weekends from May 12 through May 28 with performances on Fridays at 7 p.m. and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission; $8 for seniors and adults. Reservations may be made by calling 366-1446.

The theater is located at 107 South Pollard Street in downtown Vinton.

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