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Review Fri Feb 22 2013
I went into Lookingglass Theater Company's production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with high hopes. After all, I've heard great things about the company and Bengal Tiger was a 2011 Tony Award Recipient. I figured they don't just give those awards away to anyone. Robin Williams was also in the play at one point, and he's a pretty darn good actor. However, I came out of the production thoroughly offended and with a sour taste in my mouth.
It wasn't the acting, the lighting, or the set that did it for me -- all of these were incredible. It was the script itself. Maybe I missed something somewhere along the way.
I understand that theater has many purposes, some of which are expressing things that aren't so popular or attempting to reach a kind of conclusion about uncomfortable topics. Still, there is a certain amount of care that should come along with pushing the boundaries, and this play did not show it.
The issues brought up by the play do need to be discussed, but there's a thin line between raising questions and drawing conclusions. The latter is presumptuous, especially in a situation as delicate as the one in the show.
So what was it about the play that has me all riled up? It begins with the way both sides of the conflict are painted. As you may have guessed from the title, the play begins with a tiger in a cage at the Baghdad Zoo. The tiger is shot and killed after biting an American soldier. He dies, but finds himself somewhere between the land of the living and... somewhere else. From this first scene, the play makes a sweeping generalization that all American soldiers are unfeeling, sex-obsessed, stupid rednecks with one desire in life -- riches -- at any cost.
It doesn't get much better from there. As soon as the Iraqi translator and soldiers are introduced, we're made to understand that every Iraqi person is definitely a terrorist, out to kill for Allah. I hardly find this fair. In a world where stereotyping is already a problem, it seems a play would seek to create an understanding about the issue instead of furthering its influence.
They also drag Saddam Hussein's son into the mix. His ghost has a sick sense of humor and likes to make light of issues like rape and murder. Did I mention the whole conflict in the play begins because both sides are trying to get hold of a golden gun and a golden toilet seat?
This is only my opinion after all, and some may interpret the play differently. If you'd like to take a swing at it, tickets are available starting at $30. The play is showing through March 17 at the Lookingglass Theater, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.