Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Company One’s production of Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo had a great deal of potential as a 2010 Pulitzer Finalist play, but unfortunately, the Boston Center for the Arts’ production fell short of the original Broadway production. The play, which runs from October 19 through November 17 at the Plaza Theatre in Boston, made the grave mistake of turning many of the characters into one-dimensional caricatures that lacked emotional depth.
Without a doubt, lead actor Rick Park carried the production on his back. He expertly played the part of a tiger facing an existential crisis after being shot by an American soldier at the Baghdad Zoo. Park successfully walked a fine line between hilarity and depth when discussing important issues of war, God, and humanity.
While Park took a part made for actor Robin Williams on Broadway and made it his own, the other Company One actors in the play were not so lucky. The most disappointing performances came from Ray Ramirez and Michael Knowlton, who played American soldiers Tom and Kev. Ramirez and Knowlton relied too heavily on the explicit language and jokes written for their parts and failed to go any deeper emotionally as their storylines progressed.
The small, intimate setting of the play, which lacked a barrier between the audience and the actors, was an interesting choice that benefited the production immensely. Park in particular took great advantage of this lack of third wall and routinely interacted with the audience during his monologues. The play’s emotional commentary on the Iraq War became even more poignant with Park speaking directly to the audience as opposed to other characters.
Although Company One’s production of The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo fell flat on some levels, Park was able to save the show and make it an enjoyable play that left the audience questioning America’s involvement in Iraq. And with tickets never exceeding 40 dollars (15 dollars for students), the show makes for an overall enjoyable way to spend the day.
The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo continues through November 17. For more information on the show or specific dates and times please visit http://www.companyone.org/Season14/Bengal_Tiger/synopsis.shtml.