TIGERS BE STILLBy Kim Rosenstock
Dallas Theater Center
Director - Hal Brooks
Scenic Design - John Arnone
Costume Design - Claudia Stephens
Lighting Design - Seth Reiser
Sound Design - Ryan Rumery
Production Manager - Jeff Gifford
Stage Manager - Megan Winters
Casting - Lee Trull
Joseph - Chamblee Ferguson
Grace - Aleisha Force
Sherry - Abbey Siegworth
Zack - Christopher Sykes
Reviewed Performance: 3/9/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Walking into the black box space at the Wyly Theater, the audience is greeted by a box set of the front room of a cluttered house decorated in wood paneling and mismatched wallpaper, conveying the disarray of the house's occupants.
Lighting is well used in the play to keep the action moving as scenes shift quickly from one location on the stage to the next. The most dramatic use is when a fluorescent tube is lowered into a scene and snaps on in all of its harsh, white brilliance. Also, scenery and lights work well together for casting shadows on the window in the front door of the house.
Claudia Stephens keeps the costuming simple for this production. However, she does make a bold choice in the use of a wild 1970s style tuxedo, complete with frilly shirt. The image itself is still funny.
The sound design is very subtle and unobtrusive, as it should be. The preshow music, karaoke versions of popular mid-to-late 1980s music, is very enjoyable by itself. The script also calls for a couple different versions of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", Kenny Loggins' "Highway to the Danger Zone", and Steve Perry's "Oh, Sherry". All of which are integrated flawlessly.
Kim Rosenstock is a new playwright scoring her first major success with Tigers Be Still. In the play she tackles clinical depression in the most humorous way possible. Sherry, played by Abbey Siegworth, introduces the show and explains it begins on the first day of her new job, which helped her get over her depression. Sherry lives in a house with her mother and her sister, who are also suffering from clinical depression.
Grace, her sister, played by Aleisha Force, was recently dumped by her fiance and has spent the last three months slowly stealing Troy's, her ex, things, sleeping on the couch, and drinking whiskey straight from the bottle. Sherry's mother is never seen in the show because she is locked in her bedroom due to depression brought on by recent weight gain from a new medication, and only communicates to Sherry through the telephone. I promise. It's a comedy.
Sherry's new boss Principal Joseph Moore, played by Chamblee Ferguson, is also her mother's high school sweetheart who is dealing with the grief of the recent and sudden death of his wife and trying to raise a teenage son, Zack, played by Christopher Sykes. Zack also has his own way of dealing with his grief by developing an explosively violent personality, so that his father hires Sherry, who is an art therapist and a substitute teacher, to help him. As the relationship between Sherry and Zack grows she also acts as an intermediary for a budding relationship between her mother and Principal Moore.
The humor is brought out in the dialogue and physical humor of the play. Principal Moore, of a middle school, informs his students and the audience that a tiger has escaped from the local zoo and can be anywhere within a 100 mile radius. Since the school is within ONE mile of the zoo, they are all in extreme danger and he has instituted a "buddy system" so that everyone can be accounted for. He, however, does not have buddy. He has a rifle.
The physical humor starts with the work of talented director Hal Brooks, such as Grace feeding her ex's kidnapped dogs under the door to the basement by dumping food on the floor and then shuffling the pieces under the door in a hilarious comedic bit. Also a special treat comes before the play begins. Sherry comes out as if to start the show but is interrupted by the old familiar recording of the curtain speech. She is startled and runs upstage only to be stuck awkwardly on stage until the speech is finished.
Abbey Siegworth clearly has the most difficult role as Sherry, who nearly runs from one side of the stage to the next trying to repair all of the broken psyches surrounding her and be the best teacher and art therapist she can. Siegworth plays the part expertly, taking the dramatic shifts in tone and emotion in stride.
Chamblee Ferguson's deadpan delivery of Principal Moore's absurdly humorous lines gives great levity to the play. However, the role is also emotionally complex as we see the grief come out of him as he tries to cancel his late wife's magazine subscription, the uncertain but patient attempts at reconnecting with his son, and the hopeful excitement of finding a lost love. Ferguson has the audience uproariously laughing in one scene and heartbreakingly sympathetic in the next.
Principal Moore's son, Zack, is far more troubled by his mother's death, blaming himself for the car accident that took her life. His grief is manifested in violent outbursts and seclusion, often in his mother's shoe closet. Christopher Sykes plays the role with wonderful honesty that makes the audience care for the kid even though he presents himself as the typical aloof, uncaring, selfish teenager early in the show.
Grace, Sherry's drunken, "Top Gun" watching, slob sister is the funniest character of the show, often doing ridiculous things like calling her ex's voice mail and leaving an uncomfortably long message of her singing "Take My Breath Away", and marching from the kitchen to the couch wearing a wedding veil and eating an entire pan of brownies with a fork. Aleisha Force brings the character to life with excellent comedic presence.
Tigers Be Still, although dealing with some very heavy subjects, is a funny show that keeps the audience laughing. The black box theater at the Wyly is almost too small to contain it and with seating limited to only 100 seats per performance, the show should sell out fairly easily. I recommend getting your tickets early for Tigers Be Still at the Dallas Theater Center.
Dallas Theater Center
Dee and Charles Wyly Theater, 2400 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through May 13th
Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 pm
Friday and Saturday Evenings at 8:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Sunday Evenings at 8:00 pm
Tickets run$15.00 - $60.00 for all performances, depending on day and seating. ***Prices are subject to change at later dates during the run of the show.