SALT LAKE CITY — Tigers Be Still is a dark comedy, written by Kim Rosenstock and currently produced by Pygmalion Productions, a company dedicated to telling stories about women. And Tigers Be Still is a great example of their work. I went with my husband and we had some good laughs from the witty writing and the enjoyably performed show.
This play tells a story of three women who are struggling with depression for different reasons. The first is the mom—who remains unknown to the audience, as she is locked in her bedroom the whole show—has difficulties with an auto-immune disease and side effects from her pharmaceutical drugs that make her want to hide. There is also the older sister, Grace, who has issues with an ex-fiance and practically lives on the couch, always with a bottle in hand. Finally, Sherry, the younger sister, has recently left her long-time hiding spot in her bedroom to accept a job as an art teacher at the local school. She also gets a first client, which means Sherry can finally put her master’s degree in art therapy to use. As Sherry pursues these efforts, she and her family find breakthroughs to get them out of their negative states.
Director Elizabeth Golden prepared this comedy very well, with the great timing in blocking needed for the fast-paced rhythm during comedic moments. I loved the time when Sherry (played by Kaitlin Lemon), is supporting Zach (played by Jordan Briggs) to teach the class how to make a basketball hoop out of a popsicle stick. And Golden really helped Liz Whittaker convincingly create the role of Grace, who has to stumble around the house doing some very precise things while drunk and drinking. I was surprised that the bottle didn’t spill on the carpet, as Grace was rolling around on the couch with it and sitting on the floor with it at times.
I also loved how smoothly the characters ran from one set to the next, as if these people were all connected, but still separate locations. Golden was also effective at using the audience as part of the world of the play, such as when the audience served as as kids in an auditorium, or as the TV. It was fun to have the characters constantly interacting through the fourth wall.
Lane Richins played Joseph, the school principal. He was a riot, and a great choice for this comedy. When he enters, dressed up like he’s going to prom, I could not stop giggling for a while because his demeanor was so precious. His intense outbursts not only scared Lemon effectively, but made me jump—twice.
Michael J. Horejsi’s lighting design created realistic settings, like outdoors or in a warm shoe closet, and supported the tone of the story. Thomas George designed a nice set that just looked like the inside of one house at the beginning, but could also serve as a principal’s office, or the kitchen in the principal’s home. This design made the flawlessly changes from scene to scene possible. Also, I was surprised when a part of the set was purposely destroyed, making some extra work for George after each performance to reset.
Lemon was a fun actor to watch in this story, and had a bouncy personality as Sherry. It seemed Golden added some fun action at the beginning of the performance, with Lemon starting to narrate and introduce the story to the audience, but being interrupted by the voice-over recording welcoming people to the theater. Lemon ended up waiting, giving up, leaving up the stairs to her room, and even poking her head out to see if the recording was done talking. Though I appreciated her energy, there were a couple times I wondered if Lemon was struggling not to laugh when her character was supposed to be serious, and it could simply be because this was their first time with an audience.
Liz Whittaker looked like she had such a fun experience playing Grace, who had some amazing “statements” and idiosyncrasies, such as when she angrily spits after every time she or someone else mentions the podiatrist who stole her fiancé. I also thought her grumpy look was just right for an angry jilted drunk, like when she is leaving her ex a message on the phone. As she was recording the message Grace was singing a terribly cheesy love song and while wearing a depressed expression on her face.
Finally, I was very impressed by Briggs’s acting, with his switching from bored and uninterested to scared or angry, and especially when after smashing a door in, jumping back into scared from intense anger, truly expressing the emotional intensities of a person with PTSD. I was a little concerned about his character having had such a serious backstory and never reaching a real resolution where I felt like he could be safe from himself. I wish Rosenstock had added a little something about him getting more professional help near the end.
While Rosenstock’s show was entertaining, it was also nice to delve deep into the hard stuff about life and the real issues people deal with. I loved how the comedic energy of the piece brought about a sliver lining on the terrible experiences characters had, like how the mom, shut up in her room, passes a coded message to the Principal in order to get him to laugh hysterically. This show was a fun and meaningful experience, and I’m very glad I attended.