Tigers Be Still
{ a comedy by Kim Rosenstock }
{ directed by Jeremy Wechsler }

A tiger has broken loose from the local zoo, but Sherry has bigger problems. She's a recent college graduate with a master’s degree in art therapy. But like so many 20-somethings who find themselves back at home, here she sits, unemployed, overwhelmed and dealing with her depressed family. Happily, things begin to brighten up when she gets hired as a high school art teacher. Now if only the principal would leave his rifle at home, her sister would get off the couch, her mother would come downstairs, her first patient would just do one of his art therapy assignments, and someone would catch the damned tiger, everything would be perfect. A Chicago premiere by Kim Rosenstock, Tigers Be Still is a deft and heartfelt comedy about how depression can pounce on us all, and how the path out is always the least expected.

★ ★ ★ Sweet, Affecting and Darkly Comic. Just Terrific! Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

The mother and two grown daughters at the heart of "Tigers Be Still," an affecting, sweet, darkly comic new play by a young writer named Kim Rosenstock, are all struggling to stay out of bed.

Written in a
breezy, youthful style that might put you in mind of "Girls" on HBO, or maybe the 2007 movie "Juno." Rosenstock treats that beast on the loose literally — the highschool principal, played by Guy Massey, carries a rifle and plans to shoot on sight. But you can also read it as a symbol of the new American reality for the young and middle-class, especially those with arts degrees, trying to get out from the forces that now threaten an atrophied suburbia. Well, that and the difficulty of finding a nice boyfriend these days.

And there is a trio of carefully toned performances to enjoy here, including a
gutsy turn from Foster, who forges a character too depressed to look like anything but a slob. Despite her loser bonafides, Foster is actually at her best when her gal finally takes some steps toward recovery, with the actress beautifully revealing the tentative way in which we get back in the game after our hearts have been broken. Farabee is similarly impressive, giving his alienated drugstore dude plenty of bite but also showing us a young man whose skills are not fully utilized at the scanner. And then there's Heider, who's just terrific.

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★ ★ ★ ★ Rosenstock’s endearing comedy is served up by an appealing, ideal cast.Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

Rosenstock uses what could sound like another self-consciously quirky set of circumstances to instead incisively and empathetically explore her characters’ paralyzing grief, which stalks them like, say, a large, dangerous feline. Jeremy Wechsler’s savvy alley staging is smartly paced and ideally cast. The interplay among Heider, Foster, Farabee and Massey is heightened but fully honest and endearing.

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★ ★ ★ 1/2 A bona-fide gift to every audience who sees it. Hilarious and enthralling. Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Theatre Beat

Every stage character starts out a stranger. The minor miracle every good playwright works is to make us care as if we’d known them all our lives instead of two hours. Aided by a perfectly cast and controlled staging by Jeremy Wechsler and Kim Rosenstock accomplishes as much with the four fully felt creations in Tigers Be Still.  This is a bona fide gift to every audience who sees it. Once the emotional baggage is unpacked, Rosenstock uses her hilarious and well-targeted dialogue to show us how small these folks seem to themselves and how strangely and wisely they blunder into helping each other. It’s as if each had hidden keys to the others’ locks and by trial and error manage to open themselves in the process.
An enthralling look at how people process pain–when honesty isn’t just the best policy but the only hope. What works is the disarming way Rosenstock shows them blurting out stuff that turns instantly right the moment it’s spoken. So many “Gotcha!” moments amount to revelation.
It also helps that Mary Winn Heider makes tentative, hopeful and spontaneous Sherry the
perfect exponent for the play’s tangled web. Her every reaction feels as fresh as an ingratiating script requires, a naturalness fully duplicated by Matt Farabee’s sweetly surly Zach. His sulking deadpan cuts to the core of every crisis, as if the kid is just too tired to tell any more of the lies that adolescents are required to. Guy Massey, in the whimsical part of Zach’s father, makes his control issues so precise and personal we adopt them on the spot. Finally, Kasey Foster’s Grace is the dysfunctional sadsack sister whose power to leave a sofa becomes a game-changing breakthrough—one more bedrock epiphany in a play where life’s little miracles manage to matter.

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RECOMMENDED! Avoids clichés and displays true heart. The ensemble creates richly drawn characters invested with love and pain and supported by killer timing. Lisa Buscani, New City Stage

With the numerous struggling-to-move-forward “new economy” stories littering the cultural landscape currently, from HBO’s “Girls” to Tom Hanks in “Larry Crowne,” Theater Wit’s latest might have proved to be a teeth-clenching endurance exercise. But Kim Rosenstock’s off-kilter tale of people struggling to heal avoids clichés and displays true heart.

The ensemble creates richly drawn characters invested with love and pain and
supported by killer timing. Jeremy Wechsler’s direction keeps the bittersweet action light. It’s a testimony to hope that avoids corny words like “testimony.” (Lisa Buscani)

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★ ★ ★ 1/2 Wonderful! Rosenstock writes with sympathy and humor. Dan Zeff, Stage and Cinema

Rosenstock writes with sympathy and humor. She creates clearly etched individuals, providing meaty roles for performers who are all able to get under the skins of these downtrodden people.

Mary Winn Heider
carries the play as Sherry, whether dealing with her defeated sister and mother on the home front, trying to build a relationship with the difficult Zach, or battling her own demons of vulnerability and insecurity. Heider’s Sherry is credible and sympathetic in her desperation and that’s critical to the success of this production.

Matt Farabee is terrific as Zach, a downer of a character who can irritate spectators with his self-centered glumness until his back story is revealed near the end of the play. Then he converts from an annoying and self-involved teen-ager into a person struggling with internal burdens no 18-year-old should be forced to carry. [As Grace, ] Foster meets the role head on, delivering the kind of quirky performance Laurie Metcalf would have provided 25 years ago at the Steppenwolf Theatre.

Wechsler deftly commands both its humorous and semi-tragic elements; the comedy never gets too broad nor the serious portions too mawkish. It’s a tough balancing act that the production manages with
insight, humor, and even compassion.

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Perfect! Absurdly funny! I see my twenties among the train wreckage. Katy Walsh, Chicago Now

Playwright Kim Rosenstock penned a witty script.  Her characters are flawed and familiar parodies.  I see my twenties among the train wreckage.   Under the direction of Jeremy Wechsler, the talented cast is absurdly funny.  In the lead, Mary Winn Heider (Sherry) is this forced upbeat cheerleader type as she hides being a frazzled mess.  The lovable Heider is delightful spinning everything in a positive light.  Her sister, Kasey Foster (Grace), is the perfect composite of the worst break-up behavior I’ve observed/participated in.  Her drunken, illegal, slutty, destructive shenanigans are spoof-tastic.  Foster just cracks me up!  A deadpan Matt Farabee (Zack) zings his line with unexpected clarity.  Farabee, giving off a fairly weirdo vibe, is hilarious delivering insight *to* his therapist.  His dad, Guy Massey endears with a bumbling charm. Wechsler has picked an ideal cast for this frolicking show.  The foursome have stellar comedic timing. All and all, I really enjoyed TIGERS BE STILL.  Whether you are depressed or not, it’s a perfect, carefree outing for some solid laughs.

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Delightful and energetic. Heider is wonderfully expressive. Jonathan Rayfield, Splash Magazine

The cast in Tigers Be Still is delightful and energetic for a group of people whose characters are struggling with depression. Heider is wonderfully expressive and skillfully navigates the complex mine field of maintaining an ebullient veneer beneath crippling self-doubt. Foster is a lovable drunk delivering a few admittedly hilarious scenes in the play. Farabee does his best deadpan Napoleon Dynamite impression, but still manages to inject warmth and humor into some of the more serious scenes. Massey plays the typical bumbling principal archetype, but shows depth in the pensive relationship with his son and the touching boyishness of reigniting a relationship with a long-lost love.

While certainly resting well in the darkest depths of comedy,
Tigers Be Still is nonetheless a poignant look at the different ways people and families are affected by depression. The depth of characters makes me excited to see future showings by Rosenstock, and I will definitely be on the lookout for the outstanding cast.

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Cast

SherryMary Winn Heider
JosephGuy Massey*
GraceKasey Foster
ZackMatt Farabee

Crew

Written byKim Rosenstock
Directed byJeremy Wechsler
Scenic Design byAndrei Onegin
Lighting Design byMike Durst
Costume Design byChristine Pascual
Properties Design byEmily Bennett
Sound Design byChristopher Kriz
Stage Managed byNancy Staiger*

* denotes a member of Actors Equity Association