Story: Sherry Jo Ward is an accomplished actress who has performed regularly in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for many years. A couple of years ago she began experiencing alarming symptoms throughout her body.

After several trips to various physicians, eventually one doctor suggested that she may be suffering from “Stiff Man’s Syndrome,” a condition which affects approximately one person in a million. Now known as Stiff Person’s Syndrome, it’s an incredibly rare disease which impairs mobility and causes unexplained pain.

Ward has shaped a one-act, 60-minute production around her condition. The original Risk Theater Initiative production was the unanimous standout at the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres in Dallas.

Highlights: Ward’s drama is given a compelling performance by her under the direction of Marianne Galloway in its regional premiere in the St. Louis area.

Other Info: Ward was honored as Best Actress at the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres and Stiff was recognized as Best New Play by the Dallas/Fort Worth Theatre Critics Forum. She also has been nominated for the Baylor School of Medicine’s 2017 Circle Care of Human Spirit Award and NORD’s 2018 Rare Impact Awards.

The absorbing drama is presented in an informal, casual discussion fashion, as Ward addresses the audience about her condition, informing with humorous slides which accompany her performance. She demonstrates considerable humor and courage in her presentation, aided by Galloway’s carefully crafted direction.

Her approach can alter drastically, though, with the slightest unexpected twitch or body movement, sending an alarming note through the audience. Using her accomplished professional skills, the poised actress regroups before resuming her eye-opening show and telling about her rare condition.

Joseph Clapper provides a supportive lighting design which accentuates more sober moments in the delivery as well as enhancing its surprisingly humorous aspects.

Inevitable Theatre Company’s presentation is made in partnership with Paraquad, the local non-profit organization whose mission is to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity.

Play: Stiff

Group: Inevitable Theatre Company

Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand at Olive

Dates: March 29, 30, 31, April 1

Tickets: $15-$25; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Inevitable Theatre Company and Mark Oristano