Bengal Tiger Makes Its Final Roar July 3; Stagings Planned for Germany, Italy, France
By Kenneth Jones
Rajiv Joseph's Pulitzer Prize finalist play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams as the self-questioning title character who roams a haunted patch of Iraq, circa 2003, ends its limited 16-week Broadway engagement as planned July 3 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but there are future plans for the critically acclaimed drama.
The play, which had its world-premiere in 2009 at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, will next be seen in Europe as rights have been sold for productions in Germany, Italy and France. Broadway producer Robyn Goodman has also announced that discussions are underway for a London production as well.
Bengal Tiger was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Featured Actor in a Play for Arian Moayed; Best Lighting Design for David Lander; and Best Sound Design of a Play for Acme Sound and Cricket S. Myers. The production also received two Drama Desk Awards: Best Lighting for David Lander and Best Sound Design for Acme Sound and Cricket S. Myers.
At close, the production will have played 23 previews and 109 performances. The drama — flooded with dreamlike flashbacks, eruptions of violence and broken creatures pondering existential questions — was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Williams is making his Broadway acting debut as a grizzled feline set free from a cage in the Baghdad zoo. He is the only character to directly address the audience. Moisés Kaufman, the director of Broadway's 33 Variations and I Am My Own Wife, directs the production, repeating work that he began in two Los Angeles engagements of the play.
The play is billed as a "savagely funny and deeply affecting play" in which "a tiger haunts the streets of present-day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life." The tiger "witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war," encountering "Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption and a toilet seat made of gold."
With the exception of Academy Award winner Williams ("Good Will Hunting," "Good Morning Vietnam," "Mrs. Doubtfire"), the Broadway company is made up of performers who appeared in earlier Los Angeles-area engagements of the acclaimed play in 2009 and 2010.
The troupe features Glenn Davis as Tom, an American Marine who plunders local riches; Brad Fleischer as Kev, a Marine broken by war; Hrach Titizian as the ghost of Uday Hussein and others; Sheila Vand in multiple roles; Necar Zadegan in multiple roles; and Arian Moayed as Musa, an Iraqi gardener (and witness to atrocities) now serving as a translator for American forces. (For the record, Kevin Tighe played the Tiger in California.)
Joseph is the 36-year-old American playwright whose plays include Gruesome Playground Injuries (recently at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre), Animals Out of Paper, Huck & Holden, All This Intimacy and The Leopard and the Fox.
The production has scenic design by Tony winner Derek McLane, costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by David Lander, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, and original music composed by Kathryn Bostic.
Director Kaufman received a Tony nomination for his direction of Doug Wright's play I Am My Own Wife, and a Tony nomination as playwright for 33 Variations, seen on Broadway starring Jane Fonda (it's currently playing Los Angeles). As founder of Tectonic Theatre Project, he wrote and directed Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and directed The Laramie Project, which he co-wrote with other members of the company.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is produced on Broadway by Robyn Goodman, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Ruth Hendel/Burnt Umber, Scott and Brian Zeilinger, Center Theater Group and Stephen Kocis/Walt Grossman.
The Rodgers (recently home to In the Heights) is at 226 W. 46 St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Tickets to Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo are also available by calling Ticketmaster at (877) 250-2929 or (800) 745-3000. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com or by visiting www.bengaltigeronbroadway.com.
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