Raleigh-based Actors Comedy Lab is known for staging quirky, contemporary comedies. Its latest is Kim Rosenstocks Tigers Be Still, a 2010 play full of wacky humor but also heartfelt sensitivity in its exploration of depression and new beginnings. Actors Comedy Lab applies its usual flair for physical comedy and well-timed punch lines, but only skims the surface of the emotionally affecting aspects.
The 90-minute one-act centers on 24-year-old Sherry, bedridden with depression at being unemployed. Shes had good company, her sister Grace boozily ensconced on the couch after her fiancé Troy cheated on her and her mother holed up in her bedroom after embarrassing weight gain.
But Sherrys life takes a turn after her mother calls Joseph, the local high school principal (and her prom date years ago) to ask him to hire Sherry as an art therapist. He does so, also asking Sherry to counsel his 18-year-old son, Zack, angry over his mothers accidental death. Joseph also finds his feelings for Sherrys mother reignited.
Rosenstock sets up sitcom-like situations (Grace kidnaps Troys Chihuahuas; Sherrys mother only communicates by telephone), but they have poignant subtexts. Her plot includes a tigers escape from the zoo, a symbol of the characters as they break loose from their confinements and tentatively explore new surroundings. Only the constant sprinkling of strong language seems unnecessary.
Director Rod Rich asks his cast to play up the surface quirkiness and seems reluctant to allow the layers to emerge. This approach gets a certain amount of laughs but cheats the audience out of a deeper experience.
Jessica Heironimus Sherry is perky and determined but not much else, while Tracey Phillips Grace is a zany drunk but one-dimensional. Kent Dove gives Joseph an appropriate awkwardness but not the characters inner frustrations. Danny Dove (Kents real-life son) succeeds at conveying some of Zachs dark moods, creating the evenings most developed figure.
Thomas Mauneys set doesnt take full advantage of the playing space, placing a number of scenes in a tightly squeezed upper level. Some scene-setting projections become ineffective when fragmented over the sets multiple angles.
All the established talents involved here could have made this production a fine night at the theater instead of settling for a lightly entertaining comedy sketch.