Tigers Be Still
I really would have loved to had been at that first meeting with the producers. ?So you want to put on a four character play about five depressed people? You do know that we?re in the business of selling tickets, right?? Let?s face it, the only thing more tedious than being depressed, is watching someone else be depressed. So why then, does Tigers Be Still make an hour and forty five minutes fly by? Tigers Be Still works beyond all measure due to the daring of the playwright Kim Rosenstock conducting of the director Sam Gold and to the spot on acting. Tigers Be Still is the story of two families; one comprised of women, and one of men. Sherry and Grace and their mother are living together; mother lives in bed, Grace lives on the couch, and Sherry has recently emerged from her bed. Wanda the mother has taken to her bed due to the embarrassment of weight gain caused by medication to treat her depression related illness, Grace has taken to her beloved couch due to a sordid broken engagement and Sherry took to her bed mostly due to peer pressure it just started to look appealing and not surprisingly has gotten up for a chance to start her first job. We don?t ever see Wanda, but hear from her often as she uses the house phone to call her daughters, who while adults, feel quite abandoned literally by their father and figuratively by their mother. So how could this possibly be amusing? Or interesting? Alchemy, dear reader, alchemy. And in the theatre, alchemy should never be taken for granted or dismissed. It should be lauded and savored. In a stroke of casting genius and no doubt publicist?s cleverness the role of Grace is played by Natasha Lyonne whose film work includes But I?m A Cheerleader, Slums of Beverly Hills, American Pie, etc. Of late, she is perhaps more known for her tabloid appearances. Ms. Lyonne is fearless in this production. She takes us on a repulsive, hysterical journey through the stages of grief with the assistance of an awesome pop culture soundtrack. At one point Grace poignantly sings Bette Midler?s The Rose to her ex?s voice mail. She does this while clutching her ubiquitous bottle of Jack Daniels. It is a meta-Janis Joplin moment if there ever was one. One can only imagine what it was like to be her younger sister. It is no wonder that Sherry, stone sober and with a master?s degree, still stumbles into the world like a newborn colt; her limbs flailing about her and her eyes wide. She is endearing and recognizable and wonderfully awkward. A hallmark of Sam Gold?s artistry is his directing of awkwardness. It is magical and I can?t fathom how he does it. Is there a secret word? A visualization? I can only marvel. Sherry Halley Feiffer is often paired beautifully with Zack John Magaro, a depressed rudderless recent high school graduate. His principal father, Joseph Reed Birney, a high school paramour of Wanda, has hired Sherry in an attempt to rudder Zack and ingratiate himself to Wanda. I saw Mr. Birney in Sam Gold?s Circle Mirror Transformation and barely recognized him a compliment to any actor. Joseph is keeping a lid on his widower?s grief with uneven efficacy. Zack is more in touch with his loss and takes us on a journey similar to Grace?s. It is a joy to watch Zack unfold and move forward in ways both familiar and utterly devoid of cliche. There are so many perfect and true moments in this production and I am loathe to give them away. I must however, share my delight with the shoe closet ?reveal? that is as staggering to this viewer as David Cromer?s Our Town ?reveal.? One of the more true and beautiful moments happens on the floor of that closet. The lighting and sound add immeasurably to this production. The stage is brilliantly set as both homes, office and outdoors. The perimeter of the stage is constructed of beams and insulation, a reminder to us that we are seeing the most inner workings of these families. Sam Gold is known for his ability to portray the honesty of the human experience, including the humor that often thankfully lives with anguish. It is a joy to watch the intelligence of his direction unfold on the stage. If you are in NYC do see this fabulous production at the Roundabout Underground
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