Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Must-See: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Last week I had the pleasure of watching Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.  Aside from hearing it mentioned as a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, I hadn't heard too much detail about the storyline or spent too much time investigating either.  I like to go into things with an open mind and let the story unfold before me.  This play's story is a rich and layered one about the war in Iraq - about soldiers stationed there, about people who lived (and died) there.  But it is more than just a story about war.  It is also one that is about the physical world as well as the metaphysical.  There were moments that brought you into deep thought and the balance of hilarious, lighter humor that makes sure you don't get too lost in that train of thinking.

The cast tackled well their individual character's complexities while simultaneously establishing a lighter tone in the humor layered throughout this Rajiv Joseph play.  There were the extreme sides of humanity's spectrum of the bad (Hrach Titizian as the dark, villanous Uday, a son of Hussein) and the good (Sheila Vand as the young, virginal Hadia).  There were the characters that struggled in the space in-between dark and light: Hadia's brother Musa (Arian Moayed) and servicemen Tom (Glenn Davis) and Kev (Brad Fleisher).  And then there was the Tiger (Kevin Tighe), a character that slinks through as a wild cat through the story with power, and yet, still vulnerable and questioning like a human. 

Each character in-between is a and push-and-pull of humanity's confrontation with loss.  Fleisher as Kev makes you laugh at his naivete and his desire to fulfill his expectations of his role in Iraq, but his spiral into madness is no joke.  Davis as Tom makes you contemplate the materialistic desires of humanity while knowing that achieving them won't solve his problems.  Musa is the character we perhaps see most fully in the story of Bengal Tiger - a spectrum of his life before and in real-time during the play.  Moayed successfully portrays Musa in all of his moments of fear, sadness, happiness, and confusion.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a must-see.  The show runs at the Mark Taper Forum until May 30th. 

-Charity Tran

Photo by Craig Schwartz.  Courtesy of Center Theatre Group.

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