On the stage, there are three sets: a bar, an office, and an apartment. The play, Soft Click of a Switch by Carter W. Lewis, opens with light thrown on the bar—the other sets are in the dark. Standard American rock music flows out of a jukebox. A bartender barks at drunks. Two men sit next to each other. Ed (Brandon Ryan) is young; Earl (Mark Fullerton) is in the late part of his middle years. Ed breaks the ice, but Earl does not want the ice to be broken—he wants to be left alone to drink in peace. Ed tries to shock Earl with his big plan to blow up a mall. Eventually, Earl opens up and engages with the young man's dark fantasies. The two get very drunk, and at the end of the night, Ed gives Earl a blowjob. This is how the friendship between two American terrorists begins.
Ghosts can be a storyteller's best friends. They're spooky, they can defy the laws of physics, they're less predictably predatory than vampires, and they're better conversationalists than zombies. Best of all, we never know exactly what they want. Ghosts resemble us—they used to be us—but their allegiances are unpredictable. Some want to torment us (The Woman in Black, The Shining). Some want us to do them a favor (Hamlet). Still others want to do us a favor (A Christmas Carol). But the ghosts in Rajiv Joseph's 2009 Iraq war drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo are a special mystery—even they aren't sure what they want.
The story begins with the titular tiger in the titular zoo, guarded by two bored and not terribly bright US marines (Ryan Higgins and Jonathan Crimeni). One of them shows the other a gold-plated gun he says he looted from the palace of Uday Hussein, along with a gold toilet seat he's stashed somewhere in the war zone. While they prattle on, we get to know the tiger, a ruminating and depressive creature played by Mike Dooly—not in any kind of tiger costume, but with frizzed-up hair, a frizzed-out beard, and a necklace of beads.
"The lions escaped two days ago," he tells us flatly, "liberated" by an American bomb that broke open their enclosure. "Predictably," he says, "they got killed in about two hours," shot by the same military that freed them. (Liberation has its price.)
You can read more theater stuff—including Christopher's disappointment with Balagan's Les Mis and my attempt to figure out why Seattle theater artists aren't freaking out about whether they should move to NYC or LA like they used to—over here.