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Actors Comedy Lab joins forces with Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT) to present a new comedy by Kim Rosenstock, Tigers Be Still. This compact and hilarious work explores the aspects of depression using comedic situations and adult language.
Rosenstock uses a quartet of actors to portray a family whose women – and that’s the whole family except for Dad, who has flown the coop – suffer various levels of depression. Mom, who is never seen, has barricaded herself in the bedroom and refuses to come out, or even be seen by her two daughters. Medicine for her depression has caused her to gain a lot of weight, and she suffers for it. Daughter Grace (Tracey Phillips) is under a cloud since her breakup with fiancé Troy, who cheated on her. She has retaliated by robbing Troy blind, and the spoils of her theft fill the living room of the family home. Younger sis Sherry (Jessica Heironimus), the only one of the family who is gainfully employed, is maddened by the equipment dotting the living room because she needs the place spiffy for her first patient. Sherry is an art therapist and she is expecting Zack (Danny Dove), her patient, any minute. Grace is a couch potato who must be removed before Zack arrives. He’s a recent high school grad who is under the impression that he is coming to be Sherry’s classroom assistant, not a patient.
Sherry’s job at the local elementary school was obtained for her by Mom, who used the internet to re-establish a relationship with the school’s principal, Mr. Joseph Moore (Kent Dove). The two were high school sweethearts long ago, and king and queen of the prom. Joseph told his son Zack that the interview he is going to is for employment, not therapy, and Zack is a bit put out when Sherry explains her understanding of the situation. It is possible that Sherry has been employed by Mr. Moore for the express purpose of employing Zack.
Everyone in the play is suffering from some level of depression. Zack was driving the car when an accident killed his mom. He blames himself. Daddy Joe is suffering himself, not necessarily over his dear departed wife but more over Sherry’s mom, who broke up with him immediately after the prom so long ago without explanation. His nostalgia is keeping him in the doldrums.
Running throughout the show is the gag that there is a tiger on the loose in town. No one seems to have seen it, but everyone operates on the assumption that their lives are in danger from the beast.
Adult language and absurd situations keep the comedy coming full tilt. Zack and Grace are potty mouthed and Sherry cannot cure them of it. Grace spends all of her time on the couch, running and rerunning the love scene from Top Gun, to the tune of “Take My Breath Away.” Zack has now become Sherry’s assistant, along with his job at the local CVS Pharmacy. He is intent on taking a year off between high school and college, and he is of the mind that he must leave this one-horse town in order to take full advantage of it.
The show is compact, running ninety minutes long and encompassing many scenes in many locales. The sisters’ home is center stage, but up left is Mr. Moore’s house/office, and we also travel around town to the CVS, the Walgreens, the local park and pond, and a brief stop at Troy’s house. The multiple locations are well handled and the set works well in all its manifestations. Scenic and lighting designer Thomas Mauney earns kudos for a multipurpose set that covers all bases and does so elegantly.
The hardest working actor on-stage is Jessica Heironimus as Sherry, whose manic approach to her art therapy makes for high comedy. Her seeming inability to function at the top of the show gives way to a solid and well-used confidence that ultimately gets Grace off the couch and Mom out of bed; the ways in which Sherry accomplishes these tasks are part and parcel of what makes this rollicking comedy work so well.
Actors Comedy Lab, in conjunction with Raleigh Little Theatre, has assembled a top-notch comedic quartet and a spiffy and hilarious show. Director Rod Rich keeps the pace high, the comedy ripe, and the action non-stop. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Tigers Be Still runs at the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre at Raleigh Little Theatre through Sunday, April 7. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.