Highly Recommended **** There are just not enough plays/stories about girls’ hopes and aspirations, so when something as well-written as “The Tall Girls” comes along, you have to embrace it. Shattered Globe’s production of Meg Miroshnik’s play is beautifully acted by a talented cast. “The Tall Girls” is nostalgic, uplifting, exciting and heart-wrenching. I give it 4 Spotlights.
Life was grim for kids growing up during the Depression, especially for girls. The future meant marriage, multiple pregnancies and a hard-scrabble existence in the town of their birth. Many dreamed of getting out, but until Babe Didrikson popularized sports for women, they were stuck.
Somewhere in the Dust Bowl, in a town called Poor Prairie, a girl named Jean (Angie Shriner) gets off a train. Jean is angry and bitter because she’s been exiled to a dead-end place she calls ‘Gravesville’. She knows she’ll be spending the rest of her life here because her mother found a man/meal ticket and didn’t want her (the competition) around.
While she waited at the station (more than an hour) for her uncle to pick her up, she met Haunt Johnny (Joseph Wiens), who opened a conversation with the observation that she was tall. He wondered if she played basketball and showed her a brand new basketball hidden in a cloth bag.
Jean’s mother sent her to Poor Prairie to help her uncle take care of his motherless daughter, and impossible task since her charge turns out to be wild-child, tomboy Almeda (Tracey Green), who tells Jean to “Call me Al”. Al, who is obsessed with basketball tells Jean that she can’t be controlled.
On the way home, Al stops in to see Inez (Tina Muñoz Pandya), who is trying to find a way to save her family’s farm from foreclosure. When Al and Inez start playing with an old, mostly deflated basketball, Jean mentions that she knows where a brand new basketball can be found.
At school the next day – Jean might be supervising her cousin, but she still has to go to school – Jean meets Al’s friends; Inez, who wants to play because she needs the prize money; Lurleen (Christina Gorman), who is positive she will win the tiara awarded to the most beautiful girl in the state basketball tournament, if she can just get to the tournament; and Puppy (Abbey Smith), who wants to play basketball in spite of her socialite mother’s objections.
Although a committee of socialites is lobbying for a resolution preventing girls from playing sports at the state capital, these girls just want to play basketball.
Jean is roped into playing because they need a fifth girl, but Al doesn’t want her on the team. Jean doesn’t even have a pair of sneakers so she starts practice in her stocking feet. Since they don’t have a coach, they coach themselves. After a several losses, Haunt Johnny took over as coach. He made some changes, they started playing like a team and finally won some games.
It was great to see Northwest Indiana’s own Angie Shriner cast in a pivotal role. I’ve been watching Angie since she was a tween. It was obvious, even then, that she had talent. By the way, she had to make a free throw for the team to win the county championship, and she did!
“The Tall Girls” runs through February 25th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm.
There will be an extra performance on Saturday, February 25th at 3:00 pm.
Tickets are $35. Valet parking is available. FYI (773) 770-0333 or www.theaterwit.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Tall Girls”