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THEATER

Murder with Pom-Poms Spunky teen tuner uner a manic mash-up of “Bring Bring It On” On and an “Halloween” BY DAVID KENNERLEY he onslaught of teen musicals continues. Recent theater sea-sons have brought us “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Mean an Girls,” “The Prom,” “Clueless,” s,” and “Be More Chill,” to name a few. But “We Are the Tigers,” the erratic new tuner now at Theatre re 80 Off-Broadway, is determined d to stand out from the pack. With h book, music, and lyrics by Preston eston Max Allen, it may well be the first slasher teen musical comedy, where h innocent cheerleaders are slain between zippy song-and-dance routines. Think “Bring It On” meets “Halloween.” In a rare twist, nine out of 10 cast members are women, and the characters, members of a faltering Tigers cheerleading squad at Giles Corey High (only amusing if you know Corey was brutally pressed to death during the Salem witch hunts) handily pass the Bechdel test. Each female character is richly drawn and has her moment to shine in a solo or duet designed to reveal hopes and vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, their bickering and backbiting undercut our empathy. The obsessive team captain, Riley (Lauren Zakrin), insists on hosting a pre-season sleepover/ practice in her tastefully appointed basement to motivate the girls, many who would rather be home watching TV on their laptops. The imaginative

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➤ ELEPHANT, from p.25 was just getting started. He had also worked as a writer, and this film is adapted from one of his stories. His death led to legal wrangling over the film’s release, with his family getting its rights over producer Wang Xiaoshuai. “An Elephant Sitting Still” uses Hu’s style to suggest that its characters live inside a shrinking cage, even though at least half the film takes place in open air. He frames his actors in close-up, sometimes

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MATI GELMAN

MiMi Scardulla, Jenny Rose Baker, Wonu Ogunfowora, Lauren Zakrin, and Kaitlyn Frank in Preston Max Allen’s “We Are the Tigers,” directed by Michael Bello, at Theatre 80 through April 17.

set design, complete with a toilet for barfing in, is by Ann Beyersdorfer. Against stereotype, many of these girls have a not-so-cheerful side. The hard-partying Farrah (Zoe Jensen) struggles with booze and shows up sloshed. The plump yet limber Reese (MiMi Scardulla), fat-shamed since second grade by the girls, serves as the Tiger mascot and strives to be accepted as a bona fide cheerleader. Kate (Jenny Rose Baker) and Chess (Celeste Rose) are best friends in denial that they are a romantic couple, and their bond is tested by a Vicodin addiction. Annleigh (Kaitlyn Frank) is a religious freak who refuses sex with her “100 percent bangable” boyfriend of six years, saving herself for marriage. As the night wears on, a mysteri-

ous killer stalks and slashes certain team members, in glorious sprays of blood (the “violence design” is credited to Matt Franta and Brandon Pugmire). Yet once the bodies are discovered, the survivors, fearing they are prime suspects, balk at calling the police. Shockingly, they decide to frame one of their own to avoid a scandalous investigation, and the poor girl gets locked up. Never mind that anyone who’s ever seen one episode of “CSI” knows that, between fingerprints, DNA tests, and blood splatter patterns, the real killer would quickly be unmasked. And therein lies the problem. Not only is the book shaky and implausible, but under the direction of Michael Bello, the quasi-parody struggles to balance the comedy, drama, and horror. We are meant to

extreme ones. His images are claustrophobic and cluttered. He fills the screen with people. The lighting and cinematography are always dim and gray, taking film noir at its word, and the sky, too, is perpetually gray. While the film is set over one day, it obviously wasn’t shot in one, and great care went into the consistency of its wintry look. “An Elephant Sitting Still” heats up to a series of amazingly blunt, cruel confrontations. Hu didn’t hold back about the essential self-

ishness and spiritual emptiness of the world he depicts. But his film isn’t nihilistic. The concept of the title elephant is an on-thenose metaphor. His characters’ dream of finding transcendence in Manzhouli is rather ludicrous if taken literally. However, it’s the only means they have to expect anything better than accelerating entropy. The social and political reasons behind all this remain just offscreen, but it’s not hard to read them into the film. “An Elephant

feel profound compassion when Reese es sings about being “defined by years on the sidelines being the ye girl no one wants to be around.” g But the murder scenes are largely played for laughs. Ditto with the incarceration scene. As A a whodunit, the aura of suspense is only intermittently susp tained. t The show is at its best by far during the musical numbers, featuring smart choreography by b Katherine Roarty. What Allen might lack in the plotting department, he more than makes up part for with the fresh, pop-rock musical f score that pulses with charm and humanity. Each performer delivers stellar, heart-stirring vocals. One of the strongest numbers is when Clark, Annleigh’s handsome, blond boyfriend (a highly appealing Louis Griffin), sneaks into the house to steal a kiss and more. It’s a witty, tension-filled tango of seduction and self-restraint. To our dismay, he disappears way too soon. Come to think of it, the twodimensional lone male character would not pass a male counterpart of the Bechdel test, if there were one. WE ARE THE TIGERS | Theatre 80 | 80 St. Mark’s Pl., btwn. First & Second Aves. | Through Apr. 17: Sun.-Mon. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat. at 3 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. | $29.50-$99.50 at TigersMusical. com | Two hrs. and 10 mins., with intermission

Sitting Still” shows the people who lose out on the unity and nationalism celebrated by mainstream Chinese cinema, and he himself was one of them. But there’s a reason it ends with an elephant’s trumpet blasting. AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL | Directed by Hu Bo | In Mandarin with English subtitles | KimStim | Opens Mar. 8 | Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W. 65th St. | filmlinc.org February 28 - March 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc

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Gay City News - February 28, 2019  

February 28, 2019

Gay City News - February 28, 2019  

February 28, 2019