“Devoured by Tigers” is a Triple Threat at the Fringe

Lindsay Adams

Image credit: Nancy Marcy, courtesy of Impulse Productions 

“Devoured by Tigers” tells the story of a family already haunted by loss who are forced to handle one of the family turning to alcoholism and drugs. The subject matter is the kind that easily could turn to melodrama, but is handled well by the playwright, Michael Ruth, and the director, Taylor St. John. It never feels manipulative, rather the audience believes what the characters are saying and don’t hear the playwright behind the words. The play doesn’t make anyone a villain. The characters all have failings, but they are trying, unfortunately in all the wrong ways.

Nancy Marcy puts in an amazing performance as the stubborn matriarch of the family of women. The more she is watched, the more it is impossible to hate her as dislikable as her character is. Her heartbreak is palpable, as she sees her own guilt reflected in others eyes.

Margaret Shelby as Vicki Schafer had the difficult job of largely bringing comedic relief to a show that is relentlessly bleak. However, the comedy came from her believability as the slightly flaky, but kind aunt. She lightened the show in a way that didn’t trivialize the subject matter.

Elizabeth A. Hillman plays the daughter, who is constantly trying to prove to herself that she is different than her mother.

The ensemble of characters truly feels like a family. The play is set over the course of 12 years, an extremely difficult length of time to bridge during a mere 60 minutes. However, all the actors do a very good job of portraying characters across a long period of time. Lauren Pope especially rises to the challenge shifting from an innocent 16 year old to a broken and wasted junkie. Hers is a role that can easily go over-the-top, but she keeps it real and raw. The gaps in time are filled by messages left on an answering machine, which also start the play and are chillingly turned into the beeps of a heart monitor at the end of the show.

The staging of the show was quite impressive. It was a perfect fit for the venue. The blocking took advantage of the setup of the stage, with audience members on three sides. Every angle was explored as the actors moved around the space, which was set up as a living room with empty picture frames hanging on the back wall and an empty standing frame on an end table. It slowly becomes apparent why this decision was made, as the characters explore their feelings of emptiness left by the death of their father.

The costuming was spot on, with the characters constantly changing into different clothes, or adapting a basic costume to appear as if there has been a shift in time.

The show is a triple threat: well directed, well written and well acted. Pulling off a short comedy is hard enough, but the bravery of taking on such a dramatic short piece and nailing it should be rewarded. Check out this show’s last performance at 9:30 pm on Saturday at the Just Off Broadway Theatre. For more information, visit kcfringe.org