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Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Broadway poster
Written byRajiv Joseph
Date premiered 2009 (2009-MM)
Place premieredKirk Douglas Theatre
Los Angeles, California
Setting2003 Baghdad,
during the Iraq War
Official site

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."[1]

The back of the book gives a synopsis: "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-torn 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."[2][3]


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 are stationed outside of the tiger's 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 slowly dies.

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. Kev has seen the tiger's ghost and in turn people think he is 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 Tom's hand off was taken from the palace of the late Uday Hussein, the son of overthrown Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Tom contacted Kev after he got his hand fixed because he wants the gold gun back. He can start a new life in the United States by selling not only the gold-plated gun, but also a solid gold toilet seat that was also Uday Hussein's. However, during Kev's episode in the home in Iraq when he saw the tiger's ghost, Kev dropped the gun and it fell into the hands of Uday's former gardener, Musa. Musa 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 tiger's ghost and he believes that the tiger is haunting him because of his previous actions. Kev tries to cut off his own hand to give to the tiger. He believes that this action will make the tiger's ghost go away. Instead, Kev ends up killing himself while trying to cut his hand off. He then ends up haunting Tom throughout the rest of the story.

The rest of the play goes on with the ghosts of the dead characters haunting and talking to the characters who still live.[3][4][5][6]


The play debuted at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, directed by Moisés Kaufman.[7] It ran from May 10, 2009, to June 7, 2009.[7] The creative team included sets by Derek McLane, costumes by David Zinn, and lighting by David Lander.[7][8] Another production ran at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles from April 14, 2010, to May 30, 2010.[9] Kevin Tighe starred as the Tiger.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] Robyn Goodman, Kevin McCollum, and Jeffrey Seller produced this production along with the Center Theatre Group.[13][14] The New York Times estimated that Bengal Tiger was expected to cost at least $3 million.[15] 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.[16]

Bengal Tiger had its southeast regional premiere at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 11, 2012.[17] In San Francisco the play premiered at San Francisco Playhouse in October 2013 where it received rave reviews.[18]

Awards and nominations

Award Outcome
2008 NEA Awards[19]
Outstanding New American Play Won
2010 Pulitzer Prize[20]
Pulitzer Prize for Drama Nominated
2011 Drama League Awards[21][22]
Distinguished Production of a Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance: Arian Moayed Nominated
Distinguished Performance: Robin Williams Nominated
2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards[23][24]
Outstanding New Broadway Play Nominated
Outstanding Set Design: Derek McLane Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design: David Lander Nominated
2011 Easter Bonnet Competition[25]
Outstanding Bonnet Design Won
2011 Drama Desk Awards[26]
Outstanding Play Nominated
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[27]
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 Audience Choice Awards[28][29]
Favorite Play Nominated
Favorite Actor in a Play: Robin Williams Won

Critical reception

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".[5]

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."[30]

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."[31]

"Set in the chaotic first days of the American invasion of Iraq, this boldly 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[3]

"Joseph's metaphoric inventiveness is magnificently displayed throughout, and the kaleidoscope of figures and images bespeaks a purely theatrical imagination." - Los Angeles Times[3]

"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[3]

"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[3]

See also


  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth (December 9, 2010). "Producers Confirm That Bengal Tiger's L.A. Troupe Will Join Robin Williams on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  2. ^ "Robin Williams To Broadway In 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo'"
  3. ^ a b c d e f Joseph, Rajiv (2012). Bengal Tiger at The Baghdad Zoo. Dramatists Play Service INC. pp. 4–71.
  4. ^ Lacher, Irene. "Arian Moayed aims to show the world the true face of Middle Easterners" Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Isherwood, Charles. "In the Iraq War, People Acting Like Animals, and Vice Versa". The New York Times. May 15, 2010.
  6. ^ "Review: 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre", Stage, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo", May 10 - June 7, 2009, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Los Angeles, Center Theatre Group.
  8. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Pulitzer Finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo Plays New Run in L.A. Starting April 14" Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, 14 Apr 2010.
  9. ^ "Photo Flash: Mark Taper Forum Presents 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo'"., April 12, 2010.
  10. ^ Julian, Steve. "'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo' at the Mark Taper Forum" Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Southern California Public Radio. April 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo", Richard Rodgers Theatre.
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth.Robin Williams Is a Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Opening on Broadway March 31" Archived April 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, March 31, 2011
  13. ^ [1] ibdb listing
  14. ^ Blank, Matthew."PHOTO CALL: Robin Williams and Cast of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo Meet the Press" Archived March 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, February 16, 2011.
  15. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Star Power Meets War's Firepower" The New York Times, March 24, 2011
  16. ^ "Robin Williams". Playbill. Retrieved Nov 16, 2019.
  17. ^ Perry Tannenbaum, "Theater review: CAST's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo", Creative Loafing Charlotte, October 18, 2012
  18. ^ "San Francisco Theatre". Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  19. ^ Itzkoff, David. "N.E.A. Gives Grants to Seven Productions". The New York Times.
  20. ^ "Robin Williams to Roar on Broadway in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo"., october 18, 2010.
  21. ^ "Book of Mormon, Priscilla, Sister Act, War Horse, Good People and More Are Drama League Nominees" Archived 2011-04-29 at the Wayback Machine,, April 25, 2011.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2011-09-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew."Outer Critics Circle Nominees Include 'Sister Act', 'Anything Goes', 'Book of Mormon' " Archived 2011-04-29 at the Wayback Machine, April 26, 2011
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2011-05-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Wicked Tour Boosts 2011 Easter Bonnet to Near-Record $3.7 Million; La Cage and Bengal Tiger Are Winners". Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  26. ^ Gans, Andrew."56th Annual Drama Desk Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Scores 12 Nominations" Archived 2011-09-02 at the Wayback Machine, April 29, 2011
  27. ^ "Who's Nominated" Archived May 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
  28. ^ "Chosen By You! 2011 Audience Choice Award Nominations Announced",, May 5, 2011.
  29. ^ "2011 Audience Choice Award Winners Announced". Retrieved Nov 16, 2019.
  30. ^ "Theater Review: 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo' on Broadway",, March 31, 2011.
  31. ^ "Broadway Review Roundup",, March 31, 2011.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 September 2021, at 21:45
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