War is hell.
This simple adage has been used time and time again to try and convey the horror and loss that comes along with war. The Edge Theatre’s latest production, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” takes audiences into the aftermath of battle, to see how those affected by war dealt with life after all the deaths, and life after death.
“Bengal Tiger” — a Colorado premiere — will run at the theater, 1560 Teller St., Aug. 30 through Sept. 29. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
“Every now and then people get a chance to go to a play that is really transformative, and can change your experience of what a theater can do,” said director Richard Cowden. “From the moment we got this script, we wanted it to be a landmark show for The Edge, and really raise the bar for what you can see here.”
The story of “Bengal Tiger” takes place in Baghdad in 2003, shortly after the American invasion. Two soldiers are guarding a tiger (Paul Page), who speaks to the audience about what it’s been like living in the Baghdad zoo for 12 years, and how things have changed since the invasion.
“The tiger is the only one who is really aware of the audience and speaks to them,” Page said. “The audience sees the tiger as a scrappy, older guy, who is really questioning the existence of God.”
Life and death intermingle in the play, as the tiger is dispatched fairly quickly, but instead of being freed, he ends up wandering Baghdad as a ghost. Other characters join him in a metaphysical quest to find out what, if anything, is out there for them.
“I think the play poses more questions than it answers, but it’s really interesting to play the intensity of these moments,” Page said. “The show is supposed to generate these questions about the audience’s belief systems.”
Cowden said the play doesn’t have a typical narrative, or really any good guys or bad guys, and that has made it both an extremely challenging and rewarding project.
“The set design work is really incredible. We wanted it to look like the inside of a bombed out building, and the furniture would be all there for the actors in the form of crates and things like that,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time on the costumes and props to make sure there were as accurate as possible.”
Another thing that Cowden said is unique about the show is how much of it is in Arabic, and how hard the actors worked to get the language right.
“The Arabic in the show goes untranslated, so the actors had to find a way to get across the meaning of the words without that,” he said.
Cowden said people who love the theater will find the ambition of “Bengal Tiger” amazing, and people who don’t much enjoy the theater will see a lot of interesting, contemporary stuff that will engage them.
“It’s really hard-hitting, and really interesting,” Page said.