Review: TIGERS BE STILL takes us on a beautiful emotional journey at MainStage 222


Tigers Be Still

By Kim Rosenstock
Directed by Bruce R. Coleman
Produced by Clayton Cunningham and MainStage 222

Reviewed by Natalie Shaw

We use a lot of big words to describe the big emotions that we're feeling: Exhausted, Depressed, Anxious, Overwhelmed, Ambitious, Furious, Passionate, Shocked, and the list goes on and on. When big emotions are present, a simple word is just not enough to describe it. It's one thing to be "surprised," but it's something bigger when we're "shocked." It's one thing to be "irritated," but quite another when we're "furious." "Fears" seem conquerable, but "anxieties" are defeating. "Sadness" seems fleeting, but "depression," is debilitating. Whether we identify these feelings as struggles or demons, they exist. And, often, we find ourselves knee-deep in the weeds with these daunting emotions with no way out, or what appears to be no way out. Our friends, family, church, prayer team, book club, therapists and anyone involved in our lives might even show up to help us out of it. Sometimes it takes the entire team to get us out; sometimes just one person; sometimes it has to be the right person. Personally, I took comfort the first time I read 1 Kings 19, when the prophet Elijah fled for his life from Jezebel and hid in the wilderness. Elijah prayed to the Lord to end his life and slept for days under a bush, convinced he would die there. But, God didn't shame him or judge him or even grant his request. He helped him! When nobody else was around, God sent an angel to feed him and give him water until Elijah was restored. In some way or another, we will be restored, especially when we seek to be.  

Tigers Be Still tells a triumphant story of two families who are on a journey toward recovery after devastation and loss. Raven Lawes beautifully portrays Sherry Wickman, while also acting as are our narrator. Sherry has recently graduated with her masters in Art Therapy, but has struggled to find a job, any job, which sent her into a spiral of depression. Not long after, and for completely different reasons, her mother and her sister soon fall into their own cycles of depression. We're never able to meet Sherry's mother, because she never comes downstairs from her bedroom. Rather, she calls the downstairs telephone to ask Sherry to bring her what she needs. Likewise, we never meet her father, as he stepped out on his family, once he realized he wasn't likely to see his wife again. We do, however, meet her sister, Grace (played by the hilarious Wendi Evetts,) who has taken refuge on the living room couch after her fianc√© called off their wedding. Miraculously, Sherry makes a recovery after her mother is able to secure her a job as an Art teacher, through her friend and former lover, Joseph, who is a principal at the local middle school. Joseph, played charmingly by Daniel Morrow, is also in need of a therapist for his eighteen year old son, Zack, who's been dealing with anger management issues since the death of his mother. Joseph decides that Sherry is perfect for both jobs! Zack, played by John Marshall with great craftsmanship, is forced to accept the Assistant Art Teacher position, alongside Sherry, as well. Lawes and Marshall take us on a heartwarming journey through their friendship, one that seems very strained at first, but begins to blossom, little by little, with each encounter. Lawes gives us the impression, through excitedly awkward gestures, that Sherry is desperate to connect, while Marshall has us believing that Zack is desperate to hide and, by use of harshly squinted facial expressions, desperate to block out his past. Dynamically, the pair of them are like oil and water, but as they find their rhythm, they develop a ying-yang relationship that reflects hope in both their lives.

But, what about the tiger? Oh, yes! There's a tiger on the loose! In a literal sense, a tiger has escaped from the zoo, which is within a mile or so of the middle school. Figurately, many tigers are loose. All of which must needs be wrangled and put back under control. Zack's tiger: we'll name him "Anger," lashes out and acts out; Sherry's tiger: "Desperation," needs purpose and self motivation. Grace's tiger: "Depression," needs self-worth and a first step. Joseph's tiger: "Loneliness" needs love and admiration. First to tame her tiger, is Sherry, thus creating an exciting ripple effect in all the lives she touches. Lawes skillfully builds upon her character's confidence as she witnesses each character's breakthrough, giving us cause for many celebrations throughout the play. The most exciting cause for celebration comes at the very end of the play, which I will not disclose, but want to highly encourage you to see for yourself! 

Sound design by Michael Cannon includes a spectacular playlist of music that had many audience members swaying to the rhythms in their seat. Scenic design by Wendy Searcy-Woode is exceptional, especially in a more intimate theater space. Lighting is also expertly accomplished, and boasts an adorably lit heart by Lighting designer John Aspholm, during a tender moment of the play. 

Tigers Be Still tells a triumphant tale about life, love and the need for human connection. Life does not promise us a smooth ride. For some of us, there will be more hardship than happiness. But, we can look around and see that there are loving, caring people available to us; ones who will cry with us during the hard times and celebrate with us during our victories. These are the people we choose to live for and aspire to be like. Don't miss your chance to see this incredible story at MainStage 222! Ticket information can be found at Tigers Be Still runs through August 26. 

Audience Rating: PG-13 for adult language and sexual content
Running Time: 2 hours with a 15 min intermission
Accessible Seating: Available. Although, hallway to the bathroom/cafe can be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair or while using a walker.
Sensory Friendly Showing: Not Available
ASL Showing: Not Available
Hearing Devices: Available
Noises or Visuals to Prepare For: Banging with a hammer on a door, shouting by some characters, a stage rifle is used as a prop, sound of dogs barking, several blackouts occur during scene changes

Y'all Enjoy,