by Sonia Roberts
“…i needed to write something socially relevant, that metabolized something or became an inroad for someone else. and this was happening over the past two years, when mostly young black men started getting detained and hurt or killed by mostly white police. i didn’t feel like i had a political or personal identity that granted me the authority to run head on at these subjects, but i did feel like i could write about some kids being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and i did feel like i could write about a tiger.”
The playwright’s note in the program describes a compelling idea for a play that examines innate human reactions when tragedy strikes – pointing fingers, assigning blame and responsibility, wondering if there is a God or how much of an accident an accident can really be. Jessica Almasy’s tiger tiger (on the nature of violence) attempts to dissect the death of a teenager (mauled by a tiger named Svetlana at the zoo after trespassing) by asking these questions, but lack of focus, muddled direction, and unclear storytelling makes for a truly chaotic and confusing experience as an audience member.
Almasy (who also directs) begins to explain several perspectives by rewinding in time – the security guards (painted as selfish and crass, trying to cover up their failure) aggressively interrogating the surviving teenagers before the police arrive, then back to the kids themselves at the scene – a group brought together by an online connection, complete with beer and mostly consensual sex. We then fast-forward to the aftermath – a mother, coping with the death of her son, and most impressively, a news segment in which the mesmerizing Kate Benson manages to play all the characters, from Jean Casarez (frequent substitute for Nancy Grace) to Jack Hanna (world renowned animal expert) to Pat Brown (criminal profiler) to Eddie (unidentified male) and more. This epic, athletic performance spans 36 pages in the script and most clearly and directly relates to what Almasy’s intentions seem to be from her playwright’s note.
Unfortunately, the play begins to unravel soon after and slips from the realistic into the poetic, surreal, and often otherworldly, and loses us. Frequently, we see a group therapy session with women all dressed in white, but we’re not sure who most of them are or where they are. At one point, the character of Death emerges and trashes a therapist’s office during a session for the parents of the victim. Microphones are used frequently, sometimes for internal monologue, sometimes not. It might be that there are not enough rules in tiger tiger, or it might be that there are too many. Either way, what begins as a compelling and timely story is clouded by simply too much going on across the board – within the text, direction, design, and much of the acting.
- Photos: Lee Wexler
tiger tiger (on the nature of violence)
written & directed by Jessica Almasy
presented by Dixon Place
Running through November 21, dixonplace.org