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On Theater: Chance Theater has a ‘Tiger’ by the tail

On Theater: Chance Theater has a ‘Tiger’ by the tail
"Tigers Be Still," directed by Marya Mazor, is playing at the Chance Theater in Anaheim. (Courtesy of the Chance Theater)

There is, in fact, an actual tiger in Kim Rosenstock’s wildly improbable comedy “Tigers Be Still,” but it’s never seen and only figures in one brief sequence in this highly impressive regional premiere by Anaheim’s Chance Theater.

Rather, this ultra-goofy exercise centers on finding the fun in depression, which it definitely does under the sprightly direction of Marya Mazor. All four of its characters are beautifully overdone to the point where any outcome, no matter how bizarre, would seem perfectly logical.

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Rosenstock thrusts the spotlight on Sherry, a young woman making her start in life as a school psychologist or, as she proclaims, an art therapist. Her world is complicated by her mother (unseen), who lives upstairs and hasn’t left her room in years, and her bummed-out sister, agonizing over a dissolved romance, who has taken up permanent residence on the couch where she swigs from a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and watches “Top Gun” incessantly on TV.

Her principal, an older fellow with a strange connection to her mother, hands her a first assignment: to bring his stubbornly reticent son back into the real world. This only results in further complications, each one funnier than the last.

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In the key role of Sherry, Piper Power brilliantly navigates the choppy waters of Rosenstock’s imagination. She’s juggling a plethora of problems but Power keeps her feet on the ground, even though her head may be in the clouds, in a superlative performance.

Erica Farnsworth effectively fills the role of the couch-bound sister, inert through much of the play. Her few waking moments are filled with vigorous invective, and she even evokes laughter when “asleep.”

The role of the surly student is taken by Joseph Bricker, who exhibits a reluctant transformation under Sherry’s influence. Bricker grows from hostile indifference to enthusiastic participation in another fine portrayal.

Steven Biggs completes the cast as the school principal, charged with protecting his students after a tiger escapes from the nearby zoo. Biggs lends a strong, authoritative voice, especially when attempting to cancel a magazine subscription over the phone as his fury mounts.

An early plot element involves the building of a miniature house with Popsicle sticks, and set designer Bradley Kaye has used oversized sticks to construct Sherry’s living quarters — a fine, creative move.

Costumes by Marisa Melideo are fittingly wacky and Jeff Brewer’s lighting effects on the small stage are impressive. The theater’s air-conditioning tends to be overdone, however, so dress warm if you’re attending.

“Tigers Be Still” offers a new and articulate voice in the realm of offbeat theater and Rosenstock’s imaginative comedy receives a terrific production with all four actors in fine form at the Chance.

If You Go:

What: “Tigers Be Still”

Where: Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. through June 2

Cost: $21 to $35

Tickets: (714) 455-4212 or www.ChanceTheater.com

Tom Titus reviews local theater for TimesOC.

For more news and features about Orange County, visit TimesOC.com or follow us on Twitter @timesocofficial.

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