by Lynn on November 6, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person. produced by Crow’s Theatre and Modern Times Stage Company, at the Streetcar Crow’s Nest, Dundas and Carlaw, Toronto, Ont. Until Nov. 6.

Apologies, time got away from me and so this is a comment (the play has closed) and not a review.

Written by Rajiv Joseph

Directed by Rouvan Silogix

Set, props and lighting by Lorenzo Savoini

Costumes by Mina Wong

 Sound by John Gzowski

Cast: Christopher Allen

Andrew Chown

Mahsa Ershadifar

Sara Jaffri

Ali Kazmi

Ahmed Moneka

Kristen Thomson

Director Rouvan Silogix’s bold production of this bracing play presses you to the wall and leaves you breathless.

The Story. Baghdad, Iraq. 2003. The American military has invaded Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. They find a Bengal Tiger in a cage in the Baghdad zoo. One soldier named Tom finds/steals the gold pistol and gold toilet seat of Uday Hussein, late son of Saddam Hussein. He mentions this to his agitated but dim friend Kev. Tom taunts the Tiger in the cage and the Tiger bites off one of Tom’s hands. The Tiger is killed but its spirit roams the landscape observing the folly of what is going on in Baghdad. Tom is treated for his wounds. His friend Kev is unsettled and agitated in this strange land where the invading forces don’t know the customs, people, language or even how to properly pronounce the place they are occupying—Kev pronounces it Eye-rak, with a long “I” instead of a short “I”. In the heightened anxiety of the place various things happen: the Tiger roams the city and comments on the goings on; Tom returns from recovering sporting an artificial hand. He wants his gun and toilet seat back; Musa a translator for the Americans and the former gardener for the now dead Uday Hussein is haunted by the memory of what Uday did to his younger sister; Kev is killed in the desert and his spirit returns to converse with Tom but this time Kev is intelligent, conversant in Arabic and calmly philosophical. There are various Iraqi characters who remain calm for the most part when faced with the American soldiers.

Rajiv Joseph has written an esoteric, existential play about philosophy, communication, mysticism, the search for purpose, revenge and a bit of peace.  

The Production. Director Rouvan Silogix has directed an exhilarating production that is stark as well as beautiful, beautifully staged and almost choreographed in its elegance. He has captured the rawness and heightened fear of war, certainly with the constant agitation of Kev (Christopher Allen and Tom (Andrew Chown). Both actors yell often but I can contend with that—it’s war, the have no idea where the enemy will come from. Calmness is not their forte. In contrast to them is Kristen Thomson as the Tiger, resigned, frustrated, musing philosophy and a fascinating presence. Musa, (Ahmed Moneka) the gardener/translator is haunted by the death of his sister, wanting revenge on the dead Uday (a vibrant, arrogant Ali Kazmi)  to the point that he imagines him alive and confronts him. Uday taunts him relentlessly.

Playwright Rajiv Joseph has created the atmosphere of foreboding in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and director Rouvan Silogix has ramped it up. Lorenzo Savoini’s elegant set of Persian rugs and the showers of coned haunting light set the mood. John Gzowski’s evocative sound scape of explosive war surrounded us in the room, creating no place to hide. Actors created that sense of intense fear and dread about what the next minute would bring. Terrific production.

Crow’s Theatre and Modern Times Stage Company present:

Played until Nov. 6.

Running Time: 2 hours (plus one intermission).

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1 Shelagh November 7, 2022 at 8:43 am

Excellent play. Disturbed the viewer. War should disturb us all.