An escaped tiger, a bed-ridden mother, a hot-tempered patient and a heart-broken sister are only a few of the issues that Sherry Wickman (Sarah Elizabeth Wallis) has to contend with in the comedy Tigers Be Still by Kim Rosenstock at Aurora Theatre. This quirky, somewhat unconventional play will leave you laughing and feeling uplifted.
Audience members are ushered into the play as soon as they walk into the theater, with Wallis completing a craft, which makes an appearance later on, while singing along to songs on the karaoke machine. Once the play officially begins, Sherry tells the audience that this is her story.
Her story begins at a school assembly where she has just started working as a substitute art teacher. Things are starting to go well for her, her first job and her first client as an art therapist. But, her sister’s drunken antics might derail it all if her patient doesn’t do it first. As Sherry, Wallis gives a solid performance, creating a character that anyone can empathize with, and she displays an innocence that works well with her socially awkward character.
Recovering from a cheating boyfriend, Grace (Abby Parker) spends much of the play in a drunken stupor and sleeping on the couch while clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels. The highlight of the show, Parker is hilarious, and she displays keen comedic timing. She knows how to milk a scene and does it well. The scene where she leaves a message for her ex-fiancée stands out and sends the audience into an uproar.
Barrett Doyle plays eighteen-year-old Zach, Sherry’s patient who suffers with uncontrollable outbursts of anger. His father (Jayson Smith), the school principal, has given him a job as a teaching assistant to trick him into art therapy sessions with Sherry. Throughout the play his anger and inability to cope with his mother’s death threatens to start her career off on the wrong track.
Directed by Justin Anderson, the play is quick-paced and transitions smoothly from scene to scene. Jeff Martin’s set works well and allows for multiple locations easily.
Very few plays break the proverbial fourth wall, and when one does (outside of a Shakespearean aside), the audience can be turned off by it. Tigers Be Still pulls off the feat fairly well; however, at times, the staging, particularly Sherry’s use of a karaoke machine microphone, is a bit confusing.
While the significance of a loose tiger, a symbol of the beasts inside the character’s lives, may get a little lost in the calamity, the production, with its talented cast, is entertaining and funny. Part of the Harvel Lab Series, Tigers Be Still plays through September 30, 2012. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show runs for an hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission.
– Kenny Norton