Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Tigers Be Still at Hyde Park Theatre: AWESOME!!

I hate to plead busy and pressed for time, but sometimes life really is like that. Today is one of those days. On the other hand, if I wait until I “have time” to write a proper review of Tigers Be Still, now playing at Hyde Park Theatre, then you’re going to miss it. And so, don’t think of the length of this review as brief, think of is as soulfully witty! In fact, let me challenge myself here to write the entire review as a haiku, my favorite form. Ready?

See Tigers Be Still
at Hyde Park Theatre now!
You’ll be glad you did!

Alright, alright, let me give you a little bit more. Tigers Be Still, written by Kim Rosenstock and directed by Ken Webster is FREAKING OUTSTANDING. I mean, I love it, I love it, I love it! In fact, I saw it as part of a party of five and we all loved it.

The show is much like a kooky summer cocktail concocted almost purely for your comic pleasure. Oh, sure, there’s a splash of bitters as part of the backstory that causes Zack (Jon Cook) to be so angry that he needs the help of newbie art therapist Sherry (Molly Karrasch) to deal, but overwhelmingly this piece is a comedy. It’s got a dash of Gilbert Grape, a twist (ever so tiny) of Cinderella, a pinch of Buckaroo Bonzai and a helluva a lot of Jack Daniels. These latter two components are delivered/consumed by Grace (Kelsey Kling), Sherry’s recently jilted, booze-saturated, hilariously depressed sister. Their mom exists offstage, represented by the telephone the sisters use to communicate with her, despite the fact they live in the same house.

Rounding out the cast, Joseph (Jay Michael Fraley) who is Zack’s dad and Sherry's boos and the very long ago prom date of Sherry and Grace’s mom. Plot and subplot are on the light side here, but that’s just fine by me. It’s the language that’s delicious, and the detailed observations of this chronic heart condition aka life. The funny parts are so funny and the tender parts are not one bit schlocky-- they are genuinely moving.

The entire cast is sublime—individually and dynamically. I was so excited to see Jon Cook again, after taking in his wonderful HPT debut recently in The Aliens. I cannot wait to watch him take on more roles, the sooner the better. Cook is super young but has the chops of a seasoned pro. Molly Karrasch as Sherry is the perfect balance of oh-my-gosh and hopeful-in-a-sort-of-not-exactly-cynical-but-not-precisely-yippee kind of way. Kelsey Kling, is gut-bustingly brilliant and I wish I was into spoilers because I want to tell you all about this one scene that just about steals the show. Here’s a hint—it involves an extremely well-placed use of the word asshole. Jay Michael Fraley is new to the Austin theatre scene, having arrived recently from California. His arms might be tired but DAMN we are SO GLAD to have him—welcome Jay! Jay’s turn as a grieving, befuddled principal/boss/dad is terrifically believable.

A closing aside here—it has sometimes been lamented that in Austin EVERYONE gets a standing ovation, even when it is not merited, and that some of us are peer pressured into getting to our feet. I've totally been in that situation. For Tigers Be Still, I’m bummed that we failed to leap up and offer a Standing O. I wish I’d started the motion. I think maybe we were just so taken with what we’d seen, still so very much in process mode that we were stunned into stuck-in-chair mode. But for the record, I’m standing up as I write this, and might go again just so I can enjoy this wonderful work again and so I can stand up and clap throughout the entire show.

Tigers Be Still at Hyde Park Theatre through August 11, 2012
479-PLAY for reservations

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