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Theater review: 'Nerve' at El Centro Theatre

January 10, 2012 |  2:30 pm

Adam Silver and Anna Rubley in "Nerve" at El Centro Theatre
If the first date in “Nerve” is any indication, no wonder marriage rates are plummeting. Adam Szymkowicz’s gleefully awkward rom-com, now at El Centro Theatre, throws two lovelorn New Yorkers together for an evening and lets the faux pas fly. 

After meeting online, beta nerd Elliot (Adam Silver) falls hard for neurasthenic Susan (Anna Rubley), a troubled blond whose hobbies include bulimia, self-mutilation and alleviating boredom by choreographing dance sequences in her mind. In other words, she’s crazy-girl catnip. Elliot’s romantic fervor launches a number of delirious fantasy dance breaks including Fleetwood Mac and the agonized Nazareth classic “Love Hurts.” (The tongue-in-cheek choreography is by Laura Harrison).

Silver and Rubley ably mine the comedy, but the play’s scattershot style distracts. Unlike, say, John Patrick Shanley’s “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” which genuinely invests in its characters, “Nerve” lacks commitment. While Szymkowicz has a wicked ear for postmodern courtship, he doesn’t dig deep. Any one of Susan’s quirks (e.g., suicide hot line volunteer) or Elliot’s neuroses (e.g., making puppets of ex-girlfriends) could have inspired an entire play of its own, but the writer piles on pathologies as often as his sweetly vulnerable twosome buy a new round of Amstel Light. 

Still, Sixth Avenue’s production has a knockabout charm, and you can almost smell the stale beer and cigarettes on Stephen Gifford’s grungy bar set, complete with vintage Wurlitzer jukebox. Whether that brings back fond memories or romance PTSD depends on you. 

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More theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

-- Charlotte Stoudt

“Nerve” El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends Jan. 28. $20. Contact: www.6avenue.org. Running time: 70 minutes.

Photo: Adam Silver and Anna Rubley in "Nerve." Credit: Nancy Lam.

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