Tigers Be Still
May 12, 2013
Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
As you are may or may not be aware, Theater That Matters, is particularly interested in works that promote social awareness. Theater, like all art forms, is a great vehicle for illuminating issues that should be a concern for all of us. Therefore, it was no surprise that I found Partly Cloudy People’s production of Tigers Be Still to fit into this blog like hand in glove. This is the first NYC revival of this powerful play by Kim Rosenstock, and Partly Cloudy People make it well worth the wait. The production finds the perfect balance of humor, vulnerability, and honesty. The nuances found in this production are superb, making this off-off Broadway show feel like it should be deserving of the accolades given to Broadway and off Broadway productions. At its current ticket price of $18 its an absolute must-see.
Tigers Be Still follows the journey of Sherry, a young woman struggling to get back on her feet after dealing with horrible depression. Her family is not making it any easier. Her sister, Grace, has taken to the bottle after being dumped by her fiance. And her mother refuses to let anyone, even her children, see her due to the heavy weight gain that is the result of a new medication that she was prescribed. To make matters worse, this is her first day working as an art teacher and then her principal announces that a tiger has escaped from the local zoo and is wandering around the city. Still Sherry is determined to make this happen and get her life back on track. Part of her employment requires her to offer art therapy to the principals son, Zack. He is a troubled teen dealing with grief. However, Zack wants no part of Sherry and no part of therapy.. Throughout the play, the two form a formidable friendship that changes their lives.
The play uses the audience as a sort of confidante to Grace, Sherry and briefly to Zack. We are welcomed into their world as if we were their best friend. Stephanie Wright Thompson has captured the essence of Sherry and we instantly root for her. Grace, played well by Sarah Nedwek, provides a lot of humor throughout the play, which is always colored by the deep pain she feels. However it is Juan Castano who captures our attention. His hard exterior, tempered with his profound sadness, pulls at our heart strings in all the right ways, When he finally lets his guard down, we fall in love with his innocence. Drew Moore, plays Joseph, Sherry’s principal and Zack’s father competently.
The only downfall of the production (and there are very few) is that there is no intermission, which makes it hard to stay engaged throughout. After a while, I needed a break to re-focus and I noticed people were shuffling in their seats. The play runs well over 90 minutes and a brief intermission would have provided the audience a chance to pause and then dive right back into the play. The actors do a great job telling this story. But near the end, we grow restless from having sat for almost two hours and almost want it to end so we can get up rather than see the conclusion.
The production team does a good job dealing with a largely episodic plot. There are many locations used throughout the play, which can make it hard to follow. Set designer, Jason Ardizzone-West does a superb job with this potentially fatal pitfall. His design is innovative and fun, which allows for the actors to walk through all the different locations seamlessly. But the best part of this production has little to do with the largely talented cast (although that doesn’t hurt) is that it benefits the the Ackerman Institute for the Family, which provides counseling to families. The outstanding production, combined with a great cause, make this an incredible experience of the power of theater. I cheer for Partly Cloudy People and I’m sure you will too!
Tigers Be Still plays through May 25th, 2013 at The Drilling Company 236 West 78th St. www.Smarttix.com