The SF Playhouse presents……
TIGERS BE STILL by Kim Rosenstock…..a moving, funny glimpse into what we are.

People who keep stiff upper lips find that it's damn hard to smile.
Judith Guest

If you see no other production this year, treat yourself to the SF Playhouse ‘s TIGERS BE STILL written with depth and sensitivity by Kim Rosenstock and directed with just the right touch by Amy Glazer. To tell you what this play is about is to explain what living is. We wake in the morning and some of us leap into the excitement of the day. Others cannot even get out of bed. Reality strikes unexpected and punishing blows to us all and some of us survive. Sadly, others do not. TIGERS BE STILL is about five people who won the fight, each in his own unique way. Sherry Wickman (Melissa Quine) has managed to pull herself out of her blue funk because she finally has a job. She is determined to be the best teacher and art therapist in the universe. Yet, she is petrified because inside she knows she could very well be the worst. Her mother (never seen on stage) cannot come to terms with what steroids have done to her body and like more people that one would suspect never leaves her room. Grace Wickman (Rebecca Schweitzer) has lost the love that gave her life meaning and she is furious, depleted and afraid of what blow the next minute will bring. She cries, she drinks and she sleeps.

Add into this sad mix of failures and fears, Zack (Jeremy Kahn) who believes he was responsible for killing his mother and Joseph (Remi Sandri) who gives us one of the most beautiful portrayals of a man trying to come to terms with his loss and be a mother and father to a son paralyzed by guilt. When Joseph tries to mend a button on his son’s shirt, the audience is riveted. Everyone there needs him to thread that needle and repair what is left of his life.

The four actors in this production are a perfectly synchronized ensemble. It is impossible to single out one performance because each depends on the others for veracity. Bill English’s set never detracts. It creates exactly the right time, space and mood. Michael Oesch’s lighting design moves us seamlessly from the Wickman living room, to Joseph’s dining room to his office. The pace is perfect and the lives we see unfold before us are poignantly real. We all have lived what we are seeing. We have fought similar torments and too many of us give up. “TIGERS BE STILL uses theatre to explore another human quandary: what happens when we get stuck?” says Bill English the Artistic Director of SF Playhouse. “How do we struggle to break free of depression? Throughout the ages, theatre has shown us how we struggle with defeat and how we defeat the powers that hold us down.”

IN TIGERS BE STILL we see four people on their way into their own sunlight. The production casts a spell we wish would never end, so captivating is the combination of the humor in the lines and pathos in the emotions played out on stage. The theatre itself is small enough so that everyone in the audience is part of the drama. Amy Glazer has done a masterful job of opening the window into the fourth wall on stage. We are all part of every scene and we all care very much for its resolution. TIGERS BE STILL is a masterpiece on every level. Don’t miss it.

I don't want any more vicissitudes,
I don't want any more of this try, try again stuff.
I just want out.
Elizabeth Wurtzel
TIGERS BE STILL continues until July 30 at The SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter in San Francisco Tuesday and Wednesday @7pm, Thursdays-Saturdays 8 pm and Saturday matinees at 3 pm.
Tickets & information: ($30-$50): 415 677 9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org

ASSISTED LIVING: THE MUSICAL …a tour de force about aging…

Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.
Kitty O'Neill Collins

Let’s face it. Aging is the only option we have if we want to finish up all those plans we have for the future. Creators Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett surveyed the toll time takes on us all and decided the best way to survive the ravages of age is to laugh at them. And that, in a nutshell, is what ASSISTED LIVING: THE MUSCIAL does.

We’ve heard it all before: jokes about drooping features, inadequate limbs, teeth that don’t chew and organs that don’t do their job. The production has no surprises and in some ways the topics are just a bit disturbing to those of us to enjoy what we are and love each new day. After all, there are plenty of unexpected doors that always open even as we stand on tiptoes to see ourselves in the mirror. “This show makes fun of very serious matters,” said an audience member, a middle aged woman who had taken her mother to the show …and she is right. Losing your teeth and being crippled isn’t funny to anyone trying to cope with the loss. Living with someone who doesn’t know who you are is heartbreaking.

Indeed, the only thing that elevates this production from the clichéd jokes that are passed from one in-box to another on the internet is the delightful energy and talent of the three people singing and dancing on the stage. The songs are mostly parodies and you know what’they are about the minute you see Zoe Conner come out in a nurse’s uniform or Bob Greene trying to hold his tray of food while pushing his walker. Still, the pacing and the staging is delightful and Robbie Cowan (supposedly the grandson of the stars) is an utter delight, never condescending, always joining in the singing and acting as a perfect catalyst to the action on stage. Greene and Conner sing about plastic surgery, internet dating and the multiple marriages that seem to take place in the senior home as soon as the sun sets. Who can keep a straight face when they hear ”I found my thrill in a little blue pill,” or I’ve fallen for you and I can’t get up”?

Someone asked authors, Betsy Bennet and Rick Compton (both successful musical satirists ) what their next show would be and they came up with the title of the production we can see now at The Imperial Palace, along with a dim sum meal to die for as part of admission. Compton and Bennet decided that they wouldn’t make jokes about incontinence and respirators, but every other sign of advancing years is fair game. “We would love it if this show could change the way folks see maturity and how they see themselves in maturity,” said Bennet.
For this writer, the disabilities parodied only made the prospect seem more daunting but for many others just hearing someone sing about the problems they face or the fears they have is exhilarating fare. The show has been a hit wherever it appears from Florida, to Delaware to Pennsylvania. “This is the biggest thing to happen to our writing careers,” said Compton.
ASSISTED LIVING: THE MUSICAL is well worth the 110 minutes you spend eating the magnificent meal served by the wonderful people at The Imperial Palace and tapping your feet to parodies of songs about what you are or will be soon enough. Bob Greene and Zoe Conner give it their all as they sing about the inevitable. The truth is you might want to buy your plot while you are still breathing, but you’d like to avoid being put in it for as long as you can. Knowledge is the best defense, and this happy musical gives you fair warning of what you won’t be able to do if you stick around long enough.
ASSISTED LIVING: THE MUSICAL continues all this month at the Imperial Palace, 818 Washington Street, San Francisco. Tickets include both the banquet and the show and can be purchased at 888 885 2844 or on line at www.assistedliviingthemusical.com