By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Everyone speaks directly to the audience in Tigers Be Still, a cutesy meta-device that grows tiresome quickly. Rosenstock, a playwright Kevin Moriarty has signed to develop shows for DTC, is a staff writer for the Fox sitcom New Girl, the one starring Zooey Deschanel as a dumpee who has to be pried off the couch after a break-up (hmm, sounds familiar). She works with words in the predictable, desperate-for-laughs rhythms of television comedy. In Tigers, you can feel where the cat food commercials should fall between the scenes in the principal's office (he's played by Chamblee Ferguson, who's adorable) and the ones in the paneled living room, where sis is drooling into a "dirty couch that smells like tears." (No one talks like that except in the precocious conventions of certain unbearable sitcoms.)
The cast here is better than the flaky material, particularly Force, who can make the syllables of "Chihuahua" into a bitterly funny curse at her character's ex. Playing the troubled kid doing art therapy for his anger control is young Christopher Sykes. What a find, with sweet, sad eyes and eyebrows that act independently. His character, Zack, has a quiet revelatory scene in a shoe closet with Sherry that's the play's only respite from breathless whimsy. If only Rosenstock had been more original, more theatrical. Just as things begin to get real, the shoe scene falls right back into TV-show mode, coming up one Jordan Catalano short of an Angela/Krakow moment on My So-Called Life.
And the tiger? It has escaped from the zoo and remains on the prowl, mentioned throughout the play. Despite many warnings, the cat, like the overweight mom upstairs, remains out of view, serving only as an overworked metaphor. Anger, grief, resentment, fear and fat — they're our cages, OK, we get it. These beastly themes simply loom too large for such a Chihuahua of a play.