New Ohio Theatre presents Worse Than Tigers, a play by Mark Chrisler about a marriage at the brink of a physical final disaster that is a reality of the disaster that already had occurred. And then a tiger comes to their door and one must consider what is worse than tigers. You'll like this play if you like the truth about complex relationships.
You won't like this play if you do not like death by tiger.
"What is worse than tigers? Nothing." - Officer Kurt Patrick
"What is worse than tigers. Yeah. Everybody keeps saying that." - Humphrey
"What is worse than tigers Humphrey?" [...] "You can't even say her name." - Olivia
In Worse Than Tigers, nothing is worse than tigers and everything is worse than tigers. In the first scene, we are introduced to Humphrey and Olivia, a married couple. They sit on a gray couchette, in an apartment of black, white and gray but that lack color and warmth and intensity. Its stillness is perpetuated by the fact that there is not even one family picture in the living room but a vase with stones. Olivia’s repressed rage at Humphrey is evident as Humphrey tries to distract her while they wait for an old friend, Jeff, to come by for dinner. He reminds her of how they use to be dangerous by drinking and standing on rooftops, etc. And in our world of technological advancement, they sit on their phones and then receive a notification that Jeff has died.
Then enters Officer Kirkpatrick who had called with Jeff’s phone. He informs the couple that Jeff has died, mauled by tiger. Evidently, a tiger escaped the zoo and went on a killing spree taking out a dozen zoo keepers, and passer byers including Jeff. What occurs is complexing to the brain, showing Humphrey’s detachment and Olivia’s complete disrespect for the union of their marriage. But when Officer Patrick goes outside to face the tiger, Humphrey and Olivia are forced to face each other. Finally, during their dialogue, Humphrey says; “I thought it might be me that was worse than tigers.” Olivia retorts; “ You’re not worse than tigers.” You’re not even close. If only you were.”
And now with a tiger inside their home, Humphrey and Olivia must make a decision for themselves and for their own marriage. They must take a personal stance and answer the question of the day: “What is worse than tigers?” Velma, Jeff’s wife, could not answer that question. Officer Patrick could not answer that question. The police department could not answer that question. In fact, no one on their friend’s list could answer that question. And when they finally come to an answer, the results may take you by surprise. And maybe you need to answer that question for yourself as well. “So, what is your answer?” “What is worse than tigers?”
This still, cold, detached performance was stunning. When Herold as when Humphrey finally shows the bottled up emotion that he had been repressing from a previous tragedy, one is moved beyond words. Braeson has no fear to dig deep in order to deliver a performance that will never leave the audience dry.
As Olivia, Sullivan shows in-depth emotion in the midst of devastating odds. Her last actions are perplexing but somewhat believable for someone desperate to live and not afraid to die. Sullivan shows us that indeed there are things worse than tigers.
Zach's portrayal of Officer Patrick is near maniacal, entertaining and unpredictable. A shocking and stunning performance of an officer, seemingly bipolar who is not in the brink of reality, but still holding on by a thread.
I was struck by the contrast of the color scheme. Officer Kurt Patrick, wearing burgundy, brings contrast to a black and white world. And finally, Olivia changes her scheme of black and white to shades of beige and white showing the transformation that is taking place inside of her. While Humphrey remains the same on the outside, he changes inside.
Through September 8 at New Ohio Theatre.