Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
|Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo|
|Written by||Rajiv Joseph|
Kirk Douglas Theatre|
Los Angeles, California
during the Iraq War
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a play by Rajiv Joseph. The show is about "a tiger that haunts the streets of present day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption, and a toilet seat made of gold."
The summary on the back of the book Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph, says that this play is about, "The lives of two American Marines and an Iraqi translator are forever changed by an encounter with a quick-witted tiger who haunts the streets of war-turn Baghdad attempting to find meaning, forgiveness and redemption amidst the city's ruins. Rajiv Joseph's groundbreaking play exposes both the power and peril of human nature." 
A Bengal tiger lives in Baghdad Zoo. He tells the audience that most of the animals have fled to "freedom" because of the Iraq Invasion, only to be shot dead by soldiers. That night, United States soldiers come to guard the zoo. Two soldiers were stationed outside of the tigers den. One soldier teases the tiger with food. The tiger, driven by fear and hunger, bites off the hand of Tom, one of the soldiers. Kev, another soldier, shoots the tiger, mortally wounding him. The Tiger then dies slowly.
Kev finds himself haunted by the ghost of the tiger, who wanders about Baghdad. Due to an outburst while searching an Iraqi's home, Kev is sent to the hospital. Only Kev saw the tigers ghost and in turn people thought he was going crazy. Back in Baghdad with a prosthetic hand, Tom pays a visit to Kev less out of compassion for a broken-minded buddy than for a more practical purpose.
It is revealed that the gold plated gun Tom was showing Kev when the tiger bit off Toms hand off was taken from the palace of the late Uday Hussein. Tom contacted Kev after he got his hand fixed because he wants the gold gun back. So, that he can start a new life in the United States by selling not only the gold-plated gun, but also selling a solid gold toilet seat that was also Uday Husseins. During Kev's episode in the home in Iraq when he sees the tigers ghost, Kev drops the gun and it falls into the hands of Uday's former gardener, Musa. Who is also working as a translator for the United States soldiers. Musa is visited repeatedly by Uday's ghost. This is why Kev can't give Tom the gold gun back even if he wanted to.
Kev continues to see the Tigers ghosts and he believes that the tiger is haunting him because of his previous actions. So, the next thing Kev does is he tries to cut off his own hand to give to the Tiger. He believes that he this action will make the Tigers ghost go away. Instead Kev ends up killing himself while he was trying to cut his hand off. He then ends up haunting Tom throughout the rest of the story.
The play debuted at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, directed by Moisés Kaufman. It ran from May 10, 2009, to June 7, 2009. The creative team included sets by Derek McLane, costumes by David Zinn, and lighting by David Lander. Another production ran at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles from April 14, 2010, to May 30, 2010. Kevin Tighe starred as the Tiger.
A Broadway production opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 31, 2011, following previews from March 11. The show played a "strictly limited" engagement until July 3, 2011. Again directed by Kaufman, the Broadway cast featured Robin Williams in the title role, with Glenn Davis as Tom, Brad Fleischer as Kev, Hrach Titizian as Uday, Sheila Vand as Hadia, Necar Zadegan as Leper, and Arian Moayed as Musa. Robyn Goodman, Kevin McCollum, and Jeffrey Seller produced this production along with the Center Theatre Group. The New York Times estimated that Bengal Tiger was expected to cost at least $3 million. The production marked Williams' final Broadway appearance and his only performance in a play on Broadway before his death in 2014. He had previously appeared on Broadway in a stand-up comedy engagement.
Bengal Tiger had its southeast regional premiere at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 11, 2012. In San Francisco the play premiered at San Francisco Playhouse in October 2013 where it received rave reviews.
Awards and nominations
|2008 NEA Awards|
|Outstanding New American Play||Won|
|2010 Pulitzer Prize|
|Pulitzer Prize for Drama||Nominated|
|2011 Drama League Awards|
|Distinguished Production of a Play||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance: Arian Moayed||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance: Robin Williams||Nominated|
|2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards|
|Outstanding New Broadway Play||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design: Derek McLane||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design: David Lander||Nominated|
|2011 Easter Bonnet Competition|
|Outstanding Bonnet Design||Won|
|2011 Drama Desk Awards|
|Outstanding Director of a Play: Moisés Kaufman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music in a Play: Kathryn Bostic||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design in a Play: Derek McLane||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play: David Lander||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Design of a Play: Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers||Won|
|2011 Tony Awards|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Arian Moayed||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design of a Play: David Lander||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design of a Play: Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers||Nominated|
|2011 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards|
|Favorite Actor in a Play: Robin Williams||Won|
Response to the Play Live
In reviewing the Los Angeles production, Charles Isherwood in The New York Times wrote that the Tiger "isn’t given any silly costuming, thank heavens, but simply wears tattered clothes" and saying that the show is "boldly imagined" and a "worthy finalist for the recent Pulitzer Prize".
The Broadway production received mixed to positive reviews. The Los Angeles Times called Bengal Tiger "the most original drama written about the Iraq War", but said, "Without an actor of Williams' marquee draw, 'Bengal Tiger' would likely not have made it to Broadway. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that it has . . . But I'm glad that it has found a home in the commercial theater district not only because the work will challenge mainstream theatergoers but because I think it will leave the more sensitive among them profoundly moved."
The Chicago Tribune praised the piece itself, but mentioned that Williams' performance "seems to miss much of the amoral ferocity of the beast (a tiger can be depressed or antic, but he is still a tiger). And a bigger problem yet is that Williams' Tiger is, as things go, not so much the protagonist as a sardonic observer of Baghdad ironies."
Response to the Play Book
"Set in the chaotic first days of the American invasion of Iraq, this badly imagined, harrowing and surprisingly funny drama considers the long afterlife of violent acts, as well as the impenetrable mysteries of the afterlife itself." - The New York Times
"Joseph's metaphoric inventiveness is magnificently displayed throughout, and the kaleidoscope of figures and images bespeaks a purely theatrical imagination." - Los Angeles Time
"Tragic yet darkly comic and highly. imaginative . . . Joseph has created a theatrical landscape that is totally different from the harrowing war reports to which the nightly news has accustomed us." - CurtainUp
"The bottom line: Dark and disturbing but also corrosively funny, Rajiv Joseph's play set during the early days of the Iraq War is an exotic original." -The Hollywood Reporter
- Babylon's Ark
- The Bengal tiger in literature
- Pride of Baghdad
- Hungry Tiger
- Iraqi tiger
- Tigers in literature, art and film
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-  ibdb listing
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