Adult comedy ‘Tigers Be Still’ by Outpost Repertory Theater is worth seeing, especially for Rachel Hirshorn’s performance

Photo above: Sherry (Ashley Meyer) tries desperately to clean the couch while her depressed sister Grace (Rachel Hirshorn) refuses to move so she can enjoy her favorite TV commercial, in a scene from Outpost Rep’s “Tigers Be Still,” by Kim Rosenstock. Photo credit: Katie Hahn
“Tigers Be Still” … a 2010 adult one-act comedy by Kim Rosenstock, performed by the Outpost Repertory Company Theatre in Lubbock.
Performances: 8 p.m. Friday,  2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Firehouse Theatre at LHUCA, 511 Ave K.
Director: Jesse Jou.
Cast: Ashley Meyer as Sherry, Randall Rapstine as Joseph, Matthew Cubillos as Zack and Rachel Hirshorn as Grace.
Designers: Scenic design by Jared A. Roberts, lighting design by Joshua Whitt, sound design by April Langehennig and costume design by Cassandra Trautman.
Tickets: General admission seating $25 for general public, $15 for seniors, military veterans and active military and $5 for all students with valid IDs.
Information: Tickets can be purchased in advance online at either www.outpostrep.org or at ORTTigers.brownpapertickets.com. Check at website for possible ticket discounts during closing weekend.

Playwright Kim Rosenstock’s “Tigers Be Still” – an adult comedy introduced to Lubbock theatergoers by Outpost Repertory Theatre via weekend performances at LHUCA’s Firehouse Theatre – is far and away one of the funnier plays written about people drowning in their own sadness and depression.

Happily, I do not recall feeling an ounce of guilt even when almost busting a gut laughing.

Give the brunt of the credit to director Jesse Jou and especially supporting actress Rachel Hirshorn, cast as Grace.

Jou, who worked closely with the playwright in college, is aware Grace will enjoy a later epiphany. With that in mind, he allows Hirshorn to pull out all the stops and deliver one of this year’s more hilarious local stage performances, especially considering how close this character is to the end of her emotional rope.

Grace simply refuses to lash out at the person responsible for her own misery, which soon escalates to robbery, the planned seduction of a senior citizen and kidnapping innocent chihuahua puppies.

Might I add Grace is not even the play’s, or even the family’s, leading character?

That would be Grace’s younger sister, Sherry (played by Ashley Meyer), who graduated with a master’s degree in art therapy, proceeded to mail out 50 resumes and cover letters – then sat back and just waited with decreasing confidence as no job offers arrived.

In the process, she would be the third woman to fall victim to depression in her own household.

Older sister Grace was on the verge of marrying insurance salesman Troy. Rings were purchased, a date was set, the minister was hired and invitations were mailed. All of that was before Grace found Troy playing more than footsie with his podiatrist. Cheating on Grace before the wedding date and not even trying out an apology, found her headed home and making a new home on the couch.

Sherry’s mother, Wanda, never is seen.

She hides alone in her bedroom after prescribed medication causes weight gain, which she wants no one to witness. She allows neither daughter to see her, calling on the phone with grocery requests.

When she continues keeping the bedroom door locked, her husband also leaves and files for divorce. Now Wanda is not only overweight, but alone.

Upon learning that high school boyfriend, Joe – 30 years ago, they were prom queen and king – now is principal at a nearby middle school, Wanda asks Joe to employ her daughter.

He complies.

Meanwhile, Joe is having a difficult time coming to grips with mourning about his widower status.

And one reason he hires Sherry is to force her to hire his disturbed (anger management issues) 18-year-old son, Zack, played by Matthew Cubillos, as an assistant teacher.

Mind you, Sherry has been away from the class environment for quite a while, and Zack accuses her of boring students by resorting to Popsicle-stick architecture assignments.

More than that – surprise, Zack! – he also is expected to be Sherry’s first art therapy patient. That is, if she can get sister Grace to stop crying long enough to vacate the couch serving as Sherry’s first office.

As for the play’s title, Randall Rapstine, as the school principal, brilliantly makes his voice fluctuate with fear while announcing to a school assembly that an adult tiger has escaped from the town zoo, located just one mile away.

Thus, he reveals, outdoor recesses are canceled while the big cat is at large – and everyone at the school must adhere to an all-day buddy system.

Oh, except for principal Joe. He is the exception. In lieu of a buddy, he elects to bring his rifle to school.

The tiger and the gun provide no real payoff.

Rosenstock might be better known of late for her work on the four-year comedy “Girls” for HBO. Indeed, there are times when situations are solved on stage with a laugh. That may be one reason the playwright chooses to break the fourth wall so often early on.

That said, “Tigers Be Still” can be a mixed bag, as comedy on occasion serves as bookends for touching dramatic moments.

Consider Rapstine’s more effective moments – one when he struggles at the dinner table, hoping Zack will say anything, even one word, only to be met with silence and abandonment once more.

And perhaps the actor’s more painful sequence, trying to cancel one of his wife’s magazine subscriptions, and not finding it necessary to share precisely why the magazine still arrives to stab him in the gut with a monthly reminder. Isn’t is enough to say she no longer wants to receive the magazine?

The secret Zack carries about his mom’s death is not that jarring. Yet he, too, eventually finds paths toward a potentially more positive future. One cannot help but appreciate comic steps he takes with a hammer and trapped puppies.

Nevertheless, the play works best when sisters hope to influence one another. A rundown of stolen property to return, for example, is a hoot.

But whether stuffing used tissues between couch cushions, cueing her copy of “Top Gun” to the love scene or, in pathetic fashion, singing a telephone voice mail backed by a karaoke machine, Hirshorn conjures laughs with hilarity born of heartbreak and self-pity giving way to silliness.

It is a not-to-be-missed performance.