A gold-plated pistol belonging to Uday Hussein, Uday's ghost and those of his victims, an existentialist tiger and a US soldier bemuse audiences viewing Rajiv Joseph's noir comedy, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.
Playwright Joseph said he was inspired to write the first scene after reading a news story shortly after the US invasion of Iraq about an American soldier shooting the Baghdad Zoo's most prized possession, a rare Bengal tiger.
What could have justified this act? How strange too that US military guards looked on passively as looters carried off artifacts of Iraq's 6,000-year history from the Baghdad National Museum. Starting from these events, Joseph poses the confusion an Iraqi translator might have felt when confronted with trying to interpret his society's values to the Americans occupying his nation.
Act One opens on two American soldiers improbably standing guard in the Baghdad Zoo soon after US forces entered the city. Tom (Glenn Davis) shows Kev (Brad Fleischer) the gold-plated pistol that once belonged to Uday Hussein. Tom boasts that he not only took the pistol, but also stole Uday's 24-carat toilet seat as troops roamed through his deserted palace.
Tom says he has buried the priceless toilet seat in the desert and will sell it to the highest bidder when the time comes. That is until he starts to feed the raging tiger who eventually turns and mauls him. Panicked, Kev grabs Uday's gun and shoots the giant feline.
No one asks more questions than the slaughtered tiger (Kevin Tighe) who leaps from his cage, astounded he's still cognizant, but nevertheless shot dead for biting off the soldier's hand that fed him.
"When an atheist suddenly finds himself walking around after death, he has got some serious re-evaluating to do," growls the foulmouthed tiger. "See, all my life, I've been plagued as most tigers are, by this existentialist quandary: 'Why am I here?' But now ... I'm dead. I'm a ghost ... and it's: 'Why aren't I gone?'."
Similar views are voiced by the ghost of Uday Hussein (Hrach Titizian), who taunts translator Musa that: "Americans always think when things die, they go away."
Titizian is a convincingly arrogant villain, smarmy with his gold chains and exposed hairy chest.
Musa (Arian Moayed) is the central character in this surreal examination of the waste and depravity of the Iraq War. A...