Play review: Tigers Be Still

A humorous approach to considering mental health 

By Katherine Nettles

Tigers Be Still opened a two-week run at Crested Butte Mountain Theatre last weekend with a rare, comedic depiction of the struggles that many people experience related to depression, anxiety and inertia. The play, written by Kim Rosenstock and directed locally by Kristen Joyce and assistant director Mary Tuck, follows the main character and sometimes narrator, Sherry (played by Nel Burkett,) as she overcomes her own struggles and tries to help those around her. It’s a “How I got out of bed” story, as Joyce describes it. 

“This is the story of how I stopped being a total disaster and got my life on track and did NOT let overwhelming feelings of anxiousness and loneliness and uselessness . . . eat my brain,” describes Sherry at the play’s outset. There is also an escaped tiger on the loose in the small, East Coast suburban town.

What follows is a collection of insightful short scenes between Sherry, her older sister Grace (played by Becca O’Donnell) who is in the throes of heartbreak, and their mother, who never actually appears but is struggling to leave her bedroom. As we get to know the two sisters and their struggles, Sherry emerges from a months- long funk to become an art teacher and art therapist, her first real job granted to her by a local school’s principal, Joseph (played by David Russell) and his adult son Zack (played by Barron Farnell) who are in their own place of grief and loss. 

The dynamic between characters is often humorous and ironic, as Sherry attempts to guide her sister away from unscrupulous and vengeful behavior—such as kidnapping her ex-fiancé’s chihuahuas, pilfering items from his apartment or sleeping with the geriatric mailman. Sherry also provides guidance to Zach, trying to prevent him getting fired from another Walgreens or CVS job over bar code scanner outbursts and rude customers.

Zach ends up helping Sherry, his “needy therapist,” with returning kidnapped pets and creating lesson plans that don’t inspire children to sneak out the window when she isn’t looking. Likewise, Zach’s father helps Sherry gain confidence and helps her mother, his long-lost love, get out of bed again. “Sometimes it’s slow work,” as one character explains, but they each fall and get back up again.

The tiger that has escaped from the zoo throws people off too, of course, as the school rearranges its routines to avoid a dangerous encounter. And when the tiger does come into contact with a character, the results for both of them are surprising.

All five characters grapple with the disappointments and tragedies of life, and yet they each begin to find pockets of relief through meaning and humor.

As Zach’s character says, “Turns out, being needed helps.”

While some critics have deemed this play (which has been in production since 2010) as insensitive or surface-skimming because of its playful approach to heavy topics, the CB Mountain Theatre cast and production team provide a delightfully entertaining and relatable depiction of how mental health struggles, surmountable or not, do not have to be the only defining quality of a person’s life. The play is, at its heart, a dark comedy with meaning. 

As the technical crew demonstrates through the careful use of lighting, scenes can change, darkness comes and goes and even in despair, there is a place for second chances.

Rosenstock has also written the musical Fly by Night and is a writer for the television comedy series New Girl. 

The play is showing one final weekend with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 1 through 3. Tickets and more information are available at 

Check Also

Vinotok starts this weekend in Crested Butte

Festival begins Sunday: Altars, Grumps, Feast tickets and more! Vinotok is upon us! Our community’s …