Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Tigers Be Still": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

We had a slightly disconnected feeling while watching Kim Rosenstock's "Tigers Be Still," which is having its West Coast premiere at SF Playhouse. The laughs seem to be coming a mile a minute, judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction, but there is a sad, unsettling underscore to the entire four-person, one-act and character-driven show. And then comes the scene at the end -- in a shoe closet, no less -- that puts everything into perspective and gives heart and soul to what had felt, up to that point, like a pleasing but rather lightweight tale.

The cast is so good we could have happily bought a cookie and sat back down to watch them do another show, any show.

Sherri (Melissa Quine) is perky and her sister Grace (Rebecca Schweitzer) is the Anti-Perky. Both are delightful, with slovenly Grace getting most of the laughs. She has been lying on the sofa sipping Jack Daniels and watching endless loops of Top Gun since being dumped by her fiance Troy. (Small dog lovers beware: Troy has left his chihuahuas in Grace's care. Bad idea.) Sherri, meanwhile, is gamely trying to get up and go to work as an art therapist at the local middle school.

She has gotten her job as a favor to her mother (the unseen Wanda) from Joseph (Remi Sandri), the school's principal, who was once Wanda's high school flame. Sherri's first assignment is to work with Zack (the fabulous Jeremy Kahn), Joseph's son, whose face would be blank with teen angst and boredom if his dancing eyes didn't betray him. Though Zack is supposed to be a troubled teen, his spirit is what allows Sherri to realize her own worth, and she in turn is able to begin to turn her family around.

There's a lot here. And it's very funny. It may be that a little more soul at the outset, instead of vaguely disconnected gags and set pieces, may help us care a little more about the characters from the beginning, rather than needing to get to the end to sit in our seats as the lights come up, saying to the next person over: "Yeah! Now I get it! Fantastic!"


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Tigers Be Still" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The cast earns two stars for themselves, for doing what great actors do: managing to wring every ounce of laughter from a play that sometimes feels a little thin. The third star is for the set and direction -- it is intriguing to watch how director Amy Glazer has the actors maneuver through Bill English's single set which never changes even as the scenes and locations shift constantly. They use the whole stage, plus the stairs -- and it's all quite effective.

The BANGLE of PRAISE is for the shoe closet. C'mon. It's too good. This scene, where Sherri and Zack finally are forced to go a little deeper, is the one we will remember when we are watching new Kim Rosenstock shows in the near future.

"Tigers Be Still"
San Francisco Playhouse
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through July 30

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