Echo Theatre Company Continues Season with Adam Szymkowicz's Comedy NERVE

By: Jul. 12, 2009
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I cringe at the very prospect of ever having to enter the "dating scene" again. I can't even fathom how much it's changed since I was even a minor part of it. And, there's an entire generation that's coming of age right now that's more comfortable texting and emailing than actually communicating vocally with one another. Adam Szymkowicz's nightmarish comedy Nerve tackles this subject in hilarious fashion, with its creepy tale of an online dating hookup gone horribly askew. The Echo Theatre Company's presentation is a must-see production that features two of the St. Louis's finest actors.

Elliot is an overly aggressive type, prone to the type of behavior one can also describe as "stalker-like". He's a control freak, even if he denies it before immediately admitting to it. Susan is a mess of contradictions, a borderline personality type who finds release from her overwhelming fantasies by cutting herself. The pair meet up at a grimy bar to decide whether they should pursue their online attraction. Obviously, they've both strayed far from the impressions either of them gave online. Neither is what they seem to be, and nothing turns out exactly like you think it would. To reveal anymore would be a disservice.

Charlie Barron conveys Elliot's uncomfortably overanxious disposition with an energy that bursts off the stage. There's a real sense of danger that comes forth in his nervous contradictions that's delightfully discomforting. His desperation throughout is oddly endearing, in a pitiful sort of way. An isolated moment that finds him working a puppet of his ex-girlfriend (voiced by Natasha Toro) is priceless for what it reveals about his character.

Colleen Backer is a real piece of work as Susan, delivering a performance that consistently confounds with its emotional twists and turns. Susan has moments where she imagines herself dancing, and Backer throws herself into this physical business with reckless abandon. Ellen Isom's choreography of these "episodes" is amazingly funny, and allows Backer to show off her unique abilities.

Eric Little's direction is superb. This is a well-crafted and tight little show (it runs about an hour), that's thoroughly engaging. Little's set is simple and efficient, recreating a typical bar with the most minimal of props and lighting, and thus guaranteeing that the focus will be on the two exceptional actors. Kelly Kerr's sound design offers up plenty of familiar tunes as background noise, and they're cleverly matched so that they comment on the action as well.

The Echo Theatre Company's production of Nerve is essential viewing. It's incredibly funny, and you'll have the opportunity to see a pair of terrific performers.

Nerve continues through July 25, 2009 in the ArtSpace at Crestwood Court. Call 314-225-4329 for ticket information.


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