Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Provoked by an American guard named Tom (Glenn Davis), the Tiger (Kevin Tighe) in a cage in the Baghdad zoo, circa 2002, lops off Tom's hand and is swiftly shot by Tom's partner, Kev (Brad Fleischer). This is a story of people, and creatures, who keep losing parts of themselves, and every image stands for something else. The tiger was shot with a gold revolver pillaged from the Uday Hussein's palace by Tom — along with a gold toilet seat that he hopes will be a source of financial security upon his return to the U.S. Gold and the gold rush forge a pit of woe. Among the living and the ghosts populating Rajiv Joseph's panorama is a topiarist named Musa (Arian Moayed), though the occupying American soldiers inexplicably call him Habib. And throughout the Magritte-like dreamscape wanders the ghost of that Tiger, now pondering the purpose of existence and original sin, as though being caged in war-torn Baghdad weren't punishment enough for whatever crimes he committed as a Tiger, kidnapped and airlifted from Bengal. Joseph's symbolism and magic-carpet ride are quite magnificent, supported by Moisés Kaufman's staging on Derek McLane's set of blue-hued tile with a mosque archway, rimmed with gold. And, of course, Musa's topiary figurines that wander in and out, like the growing population of ghosts. Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June 7. (310) 628-2772.
Sun., May 17, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: May 17. Continues through June 7, 2009

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