Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. There are so many levels to Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and such a mix of clarity and evocative ambiguity in the way these levels are presented. The play talks about the ugliness and irrationality of war and the dividing lines between cultures — also those between animal and human, life and death, compassion and cruelty. American soldiers rampage through a burning landscape they don't begin to understand; Iraqis struggle to survive. No one is purely good or purely evil, with one exception: Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, appears here as a strutting, heartless braggart. The action begins as a couple of soldiers, Tom and Kev, guard the Tiger's cage. Tom boasts to Kev about the loot he's taken from Uday's gaudy palace — a golden gun and a golden toilet seat, both of which he hopes to sell. The Tiger paces hungrily; when Tom tries to feed him, he bites off his hand. Kev responds by shooting the Tiger. But the dead never stay dead in this world, and no violent act is ever really over. Literally haunted by the Tiger, Kev finds his mind beginning to go in the middle of his brutal interrogation of an Iraqi family. Like the Tiger, in death he transforms, slowly gaining in understanding. Then there's Musa, Tom's translator, haunted by another corpse: Uday himself, carrying the head of his brother Qusay in a bag and endlessly taunting Musa with the details of how he tortured and murdered Musa's young sister. Though it deals with issues of life and death, Bengal Tiger is oddly gentle in tone, and frequently very funny. It engages your brain, mind and heart simultaneously, cooking up a mix of insights and questions you'll be exploring for some time to come. Presented by Edge Theatre Company through September 29, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, theedgetheatre.com. Reviewed September 12.
Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a retelling of nine myths, most of them from Ovid. It takes place in and around a pool of water, and water imagery dominates as characters transform within the pool's depths or skim across the surface, create murderous watery mayhem or playfully splash each other. Eight performers act out the myths, metamorphosing appropriately as they do. These myths are meta-stories, rooted deep in the human psyche (which, as the play tells us, once meant "soul" rather than representing the personal travails and neuroses embedded in the current word "psychology"). They deal with universal themes: change and transformation, death, familial relationships, varieties of love and love's redemptive powers, selflessness and, in two cases, untrammeled greed. One tells of King Midas, whose worship of gold destroys his only daughter. In another, Erysichthon chops down a tree sacred to Ceres, goddess of summer and fruitfulness, and the spirit Hunger is sent to punish him; maddened, he consumes everything he has, finally devouring his own flesh. The tone of the production is anything but lofty and solemn, though some scenes are deeply moving. There are all kinds of comic moments: a mime sequence showing Narcissus paralyzed by his own beauty; Phaeton floating on a plastic raft and complaining to his analyst that his father, Phoebus Apollo, won't let him drive the car. Directed by Geoffrey Kent, this Metamorphoses turns out to be a brilliant explication of a beautiful text. Presented by the Aurora Fox through September 22, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-739-1970, aurorafox.org. Reviewed August 22.