Actor portrays socially inept professor in ‘Dancing Lessons’

February 15, 2019

A Pearland actor portrays a young geosciences professor with Asperger’s syndrome who bonds with a crippled dancer in “Dancing Lessons,” which is on stage Feb. 22 through March 3 on the intimate Black Box stage at Pasadena Little Theatre.

Riley A. Sims, 27, of Pearland plays Ever Montgomery in Mark St. Germain’s two-character play. Among Ever’s quirks are that he hates being touched and has trouble making eye contact.

Teresa Stranahan, 25, who plays Senga Quinn, who reluctantly agrees to teach Ever Montgomery enough steps for him to endure a little after-dinner dancing at an awards presentation.

“It’s a nice, little romantic comedy with two socially awkward characters,” director Gregory R. Brown said.

“Senga is very bitter, because she feels like her whole life has been taken from her, and she didn’t do anything to deserve it,” said Stranahan, who lives in Houston. “She has problems sitting, standing, even lying down.”

“Neither Riley nor I know any Aspies,” said Brown, using a popular term for people with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

“Without knowing everything about them, we can still get across the situation,” the director said. “I told Riley, ‘Think Sheldon from ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ This could be Jim Parsons playing this role.”

Sims graduated from Pearland High School in 2009, but he didn’t get involved in theater until four years ago, when he accompanied a friend to an audition at Alvin Community College.

“She didn’t get a part,” he said, “but I did.”

That role was as “Little” Jackie Sparks in “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol.”

“I am very tall — 6 foot 7 — so it was pretty hilarious, to play ‘Little’ Jackie Sparks,” he said.

Stranahan is 5 foot 10 inches tall.

“Now I know what other girls feel like, when their partner is taller,” said Stranahan, who is used to dancing with men her height or sometimes shorter.

Sims, who is the son of Layni Cade and stepfather Vince Cade of Pearland, enrolled at ACC and received his associate of arts degree in drama last August.

He works as a carpenter, building sets in the scene shop at Main Street Theater in Houston.

Brown said that projections created by Zack Varela enhance the telling of PLT’s production of Germain’s 2004 script. They include YouTube dancing videos and TV reports about Asperger’s syndrome.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net