Robin Williams to star in ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’ on Broadway
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Call it daredevil casting, a shameless box-office ploy or the producers’ implicit acknowledgement that they have a tough sell on their hands.
Thursday’s announcement that funnyman Robin Williams will star in the Broadway production of ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’ will no doubt cause a good deal of headscratching for those who saw the dark and violent war drama when it ran in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre.
‘Bengal Tiger,’ written by Rajiv Joseph, is scheduled to open on March 31 at a still undetermined Broadway theater. Moises Kaufman, who directed the L.A. productions, will return to stage the New York version.
The production will mark Williams’ Broadway debut as an actor. (He previously appeared on Broadway in a comedy show that had a limited run in 2002.) The actor is expected to play the title role of the tiger, a mangy captive of a Baghdad zoo who serves as the anthropomorphic narrator of the war drama. Kevin Tighe played him in Los Angeles.
Hardly family-friendly fare, ‘Bengal Tiger’ is grim, bleak and tragic, though certain scenes have a perverse sense of humor.The play follows the intersecting stories of two American soldiers, two sons of Saddam Hussein and several other characters caught up in the current Iraq war.
‘Bengal Tiger’ had its world premiere in 2009 at the Kirk Douglas in Culver City. The following season, the production transferred to the Mark Taper Forum, with the same creative team. The play was a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama, but lost out to the musical ‘Next to Normal.’
Based in New York, Joseph has had his plays produced at a number of off-off-Broadway theaters as well as regional theaters. This is his first play to reach Broadway.
Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote in his original review of the play that ‘I’m tempted to call it the most original drama written so far about the Iraq war.’
-- David Ng
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