When Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still prowled onto the New York underground theatre scene, the term “indie theater” was thrown at a collection of plays to describe the way that certain modern playwrights make their audiences feel.
And “indie” might be an apt description of Tigers – the voice of Sherry, the female protagonist, is irrepressibly young; her nervous approach to life earns a comparison to Garden State or The Last Kiss; and by the end of the play I was guessing the middle school that recently hired Sherry is in a melancholy, hip city like Portland or Seattle.
Sherry (an adorable turn by Abbey Siegworth) is the youngest in a family of neurotics. She recently graduated with a master’s in art therapy and stayed in bed for a month. Her once-beautiful, depressed mother uses the telephone to give Sherry the grocery list, or ask her about her day. And it was Sherry’s mother who called up her highschool beau Joseph (Chamblee Ferguson), the middle school principal, to get Sherry a job.
In this play, life seems to be the tiger that awaits everyone should they venture beyond the front door. Sherry’s sister Grace (Aleisha Force) recently broke up with her fiancé Troy and only takes a break from watching Top Gun to steal an assortment of trinkets from Troy’s apartment or to sing along to Bette Midler’s The Rose.
“This is the story of how I stopped being a total disaster” is one of Sherry’s opening lines in Tigers Be Still, but it could also fit at the end of Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. And then you read that Rosenstock is a staff writer on Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl and it all makes sense.
Rosenstock crafted two very distinct, quirky women in the characters of Sherry and Grace – their sisterly honesty will make you laugh and cry. Sherry offers some sweet, tough love to Joseph’s 18-year-old son with anger problems Zack (Christopher Sykes). And Hal Brooks has directed them all into one ball of energetic fun for Dallas Theater Center’s production, playing through May 13.
But there are no epiphanies to be had here. The 2-d nature of these eccentric characters is never fleshed out and their problems only disappear when the solution is proffered. Sherry is given a job, Joseph finds a new way to fill his loneliness, and for Grace, the solution takes almost too long – I’m not sure I’ll ever listen to The Rose again. If you were sitting in bed because you didn’t have a job – wouldn’t someone giving you a job be a good enough reason to get out of bed? But maybe this is the kind of story everyone understands. Sometimes all we need is a simple solution and a few good laughs.
After all, this is the story of people learning to face the tiger and if you’re in the audience, chances are you’ve already faced a whole streak of disasters waiting to pounce.