The Nerd, one of Chicago-raised Larry Shue's landmark scripts, premiered at Milwaukee Repertory in 1981 and proceeded to Broadway in 1987, where Charles Nelson Reilly directed Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) in the lead role of Willum Cubbert.
Willum lives a rather un-gumptious life as an architect in Terre Haute, courtesy of his unknown savior, Rick Steadman. Years earlier in Vietnam, Steadman pulled the unconscious Cubbert to safety, and, while Cubbert cannot remember the man, he writes to Steadman, promising undying friendship and a standing invitation. On the auspicious occasion of Willum's 34th birthday party, thrown by sometime girlfriend Tansy, Steadman makes his appearance unannounced. Amidst the Hoosier glitterati of Cubbert's best friend, caustic theatre critic Axel, and wealthy potential clients Warnock and Clelia Wardgrave with monstrous young son, Thor, it becomes painfully apparent that Steadman is the ultimate nerd. Bumbling and clingy, he hangs on well past his welcome, causing spiralling, laughable misery to all. How is Willum extricated from his undying debt of friendship? Well, in Shue fashion, there's a unique twist that has kept audiences happy since the play's premiere.