When life falls apart at the seams, what would it take to get you off the couch and back to living? In “Tigers Be Still,” two intertwined, dysfunctional families discover the answer.
The play, written by Kim Rosenstock, revolves around the lives of the Wickman women. Each one has her reason for retreating from the world.
Sherry (Anna O’Donoghue) falls into a deep depression when she can’t land a job after getting her master’s degree; her sister, Grace (Rebecca Hart), is inconsolable when her fiancé cheats on her; and their mom (who’s never actually seen or heard) sequesters herself in her bedroom when her prescription medications cause her to gain weight.
The story is told primarily from Sherry’s point of view, with re-enacted asides giving insight into her mom’s life. Although still on the mend, Sherry has found her motivation: a job. Her sister and mom aren’t faring as well.
Grace has become a permanent fixture to the couch, guzzling Jack Daniels and obsessively watching “Top Gun.” And her mom refuses to allow anyone to see her, interacting only by phone.
Sherry’s job is as a teacher, working at a school run by her mom’s high school sweetheart, Joseph (Joseph Tisa). On the side, she is using her degree in art therapy to help Joseph’s 18-year-old son, Zack (Noah Witke), who is struggling with his mother’s untimely death.
The two families’ stories have all the ingredients for a heart-wrenching drama, but “Tigers Be Still” couldn’t be any further from that. The play delivers a lighthearted take, and the Public Theatre has cast a fun group of actors to bring Rosenstock’s diverting characters to its stage.
Sherry is a bundle of insecurity, desperately wanting to impress Joseph, who hired her at her mom’s behest. O’Donoghue embraces Sherry’s foibles, setting up the perfect comic platform for Hart to spring off of as Grace.
Grace is the epitome of a breakup, and Hart plays up the role to great amusement. The aftermath of a breakup isn’t a picnic to live through, but is comic fodder for a feast of laughs in “Tigers Be Still.”
It’s all there, from the Betty Boop pajamas, to karaoke renditions of sappy love songs. And, as comic icing, Grace has resorted to larceny to get her ex’s attention.
The fun just keeps coming with Tisa’s and Witke’s characters, Joseph and Zack.
Tisa captures the essence of young love, seeming to revert back to a high school boy every time he asks Sherry to pass on a message to her mom for him.
Witke also entertainingly reconnects with his younger self, comically bucking authority with teenage angst and disdain. Beneath it all, Witke allows the audience to see his character’s vulnerability, adding an endearing appeal.
Whatever drama, whether big or small, is currently going on in your life, the Public Theatre’s rendition of “Tigers Be Still” is an amusing reminder to see the comedy in the tragedy. No matter how bad the situation, it will come to an end, which is definitely an uplifting thought to chase away the winter blues.
April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: [email protected]