Red Right Hand: BENGAL TIGER AT THE MARK TAPER FORUM
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

BENGAL TIGER AT THE MARK TAPER FORUM

It unfolds in a peculiar spiral of death and ghosts. And one of the characters is a fucking tiger! A tiger that uses words like "fucking'."



Bengal Tiger a the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Moises Kaufman, once again defies the conventional wisdom that no one wants to see things about the War in Iraq (having initially premiered in LA last year. However, like The Hurt Locker, it's really less about the war than about the people in it, though Tiger does indulge in a little commentary, though the most direct of it is relayed in the bites of wisdom offered by its titular character. And most of it, not so much directly about the war, largely owing to the fact that he is...well, a tiger.

The tiger in question, while the center of the play is not really the central character of the play. However, as portrayed by Kevin (Emergency, Lost) Tighe, he rocks the house and is deft in manipulating the audience, especially when it comes to making them laugh at otherwise inappropriate times. At one point, you can actually hear the audience admonish themselves for wanting to laugh at one of the tiger's wisecracks.

The central character is Musa, former gardener to Saddam's vile issue Uday Hussein, now serving as a translator to the U.S. Military. Said Charles McNulty in the LA Times review, "This is a play in which death....has absolutely no effect on an actor’s stage time." Important to note as everyone in this play haunts, is haunted by or both by and to someone (whatnow?). Arian Moayed's Musa (or Habib, as he is called by the two fairly ignorant young Marines featured in the play) is haunted by Uday, whose cruelty was visited upon his own life at one point and who connects many character threads though the production. In fact, it's is Uday's topiary garden, ravaged by "liberation" that makes much of the stage though the show.

The Tiger lays bare a central theme as he opines his way across the stage, that being "why am I here?" and then "Why am I still here?" Musa's journey, however, rolls around in one's head fro a while after the lights go down. He experiences great change, brought on by his ghosts, but ultimately facilitated by hos own hand. And those action leave him broken, and aware of it.

As the tiger questions his (continuing) existence and what God means by it (and everything else) he finds Musa, a creator himself in his damaged garden (that was never really his), having truly lost his way. God in micro? There's plenty of room for interpretation. May need to see it again.
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan