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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Tall Grass

Also see John's review of Smokey Joe's Cafe

Tall Grass

The Inside Out Theatre Company presents Tall Grass, a trio of plays by Brian Harris: The Business Proposal, The Gerbil, and Tall Grass. Tall Grass originally ran Off-Broadway in the Spring of 2007 for a limited engagement at the Samuel Beckett Theatre at Theater Row. Three actors perform all three plays in this production done without intermission.

The first play, The Business Proposal, is the story of a timid underachiever named Trevor and his driven, work-obsessed girlfriend Paula. It covers a little over six months of their lives as they sort out what they really want out of their professional lives, and their relationship with one another. What they really want comes as a surprise to both them and the audience. The two main characters are written and played with comic interest and depth.

Stacy Schwartz as Paula is funny and smart. She and Jim Ballard, as her boyfriend Trevor, work the dialogue with the smoothness of two people who know each other well. Reiss Gaspard shows his ability with accents as he quickly slips in and out of several different characters.

The second play, The Gerbil, is the story of a burglar caught breaking into the home of a dysfunctional married couple. The couple, who possess all the marital charm of George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, hold the burglar at bay as they argue their way to a most unexpected resolution to the situation. The end ties everything together with poetic justice.

Jim Ballard shows his diversity in this play as husband James. Stacy Schwartz plays his wife Margaret. She keeps an eye on the acting beats of the piece, finding moments to change tempo and energy. Reiss Gaspard takes center stage nicely as the burglar, Dog.

The third play, Tall Grass, is the story of an elderly married couple living alone on the outskirts of town. Though they are not in the best of health, and have not had driving privileges in several years, they prize their independence. They are visited by a representative from an unnamed government assistance agency who supposedly is drawn to their home by the unmown front yard grass. He indicates that the grass is a sign that perhaps the residents inside are in need of intervening care by his agency. The couple is understandably wary of losing their independence and of the veracity of his intentions. In the end they manage to work out a solution that is palatable.

Reiss Gaspard is the cuddly and spunky husband Chester. Stacy Schwartz as his wife Dottie reminds one of Carol Burnett. Jim Ballard as Howard is as smarmy and nervous as a used car salesman trying to sell a hot car.

Brian Harris's writing is fresh and witty, with a dark comedic twist. His theatrical voice is a welcome addition to the new and emerging works featured in South Florida. Harris's short plays have won The Strawberry One-Act Festival and The Jean Dalrymple Award for Best Comedy Playwright at the American Theatre of Actors. He is also co-author of the Simon & Schuster book Lay Low and Don't Make The Big Mistakes.

The Inside Out Theatre Company production of Tall Grass will be presented through February 17, 2008 at the Museum of Art at One East Las Olas Blvd., in Ft. Lauderdale. The inside Out Theatre Company is a 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization hiring local Equity and non-union actors and actresses. In addition to their shows at the Museum of Art, they have extensive shows and classes for children, including a teen touring group. For information and tickets you may reach them by calling 954-385-3060, or online at www.insideouttheatre.org. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 267355, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33326.

Cast
Stacy Schwartz*: Paula Labrek, Margaret, Dottie
Jim Ballard*: Trevor Palumbo, James, Howard
Reiss Gaspard: Waiter/Voices, Dog, Chester

Crew
Director: Kim St. Leon
Scenic Design: Tyler Smith
Lighting Design/Sound Design: Mike Brooks
Stage Manager: Sandy Ives*

*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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