By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated October 06, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
Joan Marcus

Tigers Be Still may be playwright Kim Rosenstock’s New York City debut, but she already knows how to win over an audience. In this case, she does so with a karaoke machine, early Madonna, and an endearingly (purposely?) off-key star in Halley Feiffer. After Feiffer performs an earnest, melodically ambiguous rendition of ”Holiday,” who wouldn’t root for her character — Sherry, a formerly depressed art therapist — in ”this 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 just, like, totally eat my brain”? Moreover, who couldn’t identify with feelings of anxiousness and loneliness and uselessness?

There’s a lot of angst packed into this appealingly dark comedy. Sherry’s couch-bound sister, Grace (Natasha Lyonne), is recovering from a non-mutual breakup in all the clichéd ways — swigging Jack Daniels, inhaling Entenmann’s, kidnapping her ex-boyfriend’s yappy little dogs. Sherry’s recently widowed boss, Principal Moore (Reed Birney), is trying to grieve while still parenting his explosive 19-year-old son, Zack (John Magaro), who tends to lash out at customers while on the job at CVS. And the girls’ offstage mom — Principal Moore’s high school sweetheart, incidentally — is bedridden by an autoimmune disease and a debilitating depression.

At times, Tigers Be Still feels overstuffed. The tiger business — a zoo escape becomes the catalyst for, among other things, a late-night Chihuahua chase — seems especially superfluous (though it does yield a drily amusing monologue for Birney). But in 105 intermission-less minutes, Rosenstock and director Sam Gold (who helmed last season’s winning Circle Mirror Transformation) accomplish something rather extraordinary: They make hanging out with despondent, angry, wayward people fun. B+

(Tickets: or 212-719-1300)