SF Playhouse’s eighth season comes to a close with plenty of laughs in Tigers Be Still, a new play by Kim Rosenstock that is receiving its west coast premiere here in San Francisco.
Top Gun, Walgreens, runaway Chihuahuas, an off-stage ailing mother, and, of course, a tiger all factor in the lives of four lonely hearts – each “stuck” and struggling to break free of their own personal depressions. Sadness hangs in the air, and there is no shortage of American Beauty-like melancholy. It’s this backdrop of despair, though, that creates a contrasting canvas for several charming, light-hearted scenes, and, for the most part, the play succeeds in walking a tightrope of comedic drama.
Sherry (Melissa Quine, channeling her inner Reese Witherspoon) and her sister Grace (Rebecca Schweitzer) live at home with their bed-ridden mother; though we never see her, she calls down on a regular basis to check in on her daughters and to ensure the grocery list is just so. Grace’s engagement has unravelled thanks to an affair, and she’s a mess – perpetually “sleep-drinking” Jack Daniels, and replaying Top Gun love scenes, “Take my breath away!” Sherry is struggling to bootstrap her therapy business which she runs out of the living room.
There’s often a fine line between doing the stupidest thing, and doing the sexiest thing.
Then along comes her first client, Zack (Jeremy Kahn), a slacker teen with a bit of an anger management issue, “Get out of my Walgreens!”
Meanwhile high school teacher Joseph (Remi Sandri) is trying to keep order after a tiger is discovered missing, and threatens the safety of the students (“We’ve cancelled recess indefinitely”). And there is a connection later revealed that may or may not enable him to assist in an “escape” of sorts.
The last thing anyone needs is a needy therapist.
Thankfully, Rosentock’s material is anything but melodramatic. Rather, we get a few choice monologues — notably Zack’s when he eventually finds himself eye-to-eye with the striped menace — and some charming scenes that reveal these characters as layered and nuanced. With Grace, however, Rosenstock perhaps turns once too often for a Top Gun punch line.
For a play with only four characters there are a lot of moving parts, and interlinked story lines. Once again the tight SF Playhouse space is used to wonderful effect with actors extending their performances into the house. The denouement is not as ultimately satisfying as I expected it to be, but the characters and the dialog are so convincing that Tigers is definitely worth a visit.
3 out of 5 stars
By Kim Rosenstock
Directed by Amy Glazer
Featuring Melissa Quine, Remi Sandri*, Rebecca Schweitzer*, Jeremy Kahn
* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.
Photo credit: Jessica Palopoli