Life does imitate art. Happens all the time.

Case in point: “Tigers Be Still,” the season-opening play by the still-new Dramatic Repertory Company of Portland.

The theater company came on the Portland scene last season with a promise to present hard-edged new plays that other local theater companies were not likely to produce.

“Tigers Be Still” is a comedy about a family beset by dysfunction and depression. At its core, it’s about how easy it is to become broken, and also how easy it is to be mended. It opens tonight at the Studio Theatre at Portland Stage Company and continues through Nov. 6.

A central part of the story involves a tiger that has escaped from a local zoo. Artistic director Keith Powell Beyland could do little more than shake his head last week when he heard about the exotic animals that were set free from a private farm in Ohio and later killed by authorities who feared for the safety of local residents.

On a much smaller scale, that’s the scenario of “Tigers Be Still.”

“You do this play, and you think that the tiger escaping from the zoo is the part of the show that people will have the hardest time relating to,” Beyland said. “But a week before we open, a tiger escapes from a zoo and roams the streets. So you never know what will become relevant.”

Written by hot new playwright Kim Rosenstock, “Tigers Be Still” is so new it’s not even been published yet. It’s been produced just a few times, including at the theater in New York where Beyland used to work. He obtained a copy of the script and decided it would be perfect for Dramatic Rep.

“It’s an extremely funny play, but also a very moving play,” he said. “The writing is so witty. It’s smartly written. It has a sense of hope, even for a play that is dark and has some difficult issues. These people are going through some really bad stuff, and you feel bad for laughing at it.”

The play stars Maine and New Hampshire actors Jesse Leighton, Colleen A. Madden, Jaimie Schwartz and Casey Turner.

In its abbreviated first season, Dramatic Rep produced two plays. This season, Beyland will offer three shows. In addition to “Tigers Be Still,” he and his team will produce “A Nervous Smile” by John Belluso and “Life During Wartime” by Keith Reddin.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes