I just made a bunch of sandwiches to take to the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Unlike some outdoor events, which are all about the food (funnel cake! that corn dripping with mayo that always looks so tasty but way too messy for an OCD girl like myself to even attempt!), LATFOB has apparently contracted with only the most corporate and boring food vendors. So instead of waiting in line forty minutes for a Panda Bowl, AK and I will be eating PB&J on the slightly odd bread I made a few days ago.
I substituted almonds for walnuts, currants for raisins and, for oatmeal…Cheerios. Trader Joe’s O’s, technically. Even though the bread machine recipe book is plastered with warnings about substitutions—it’s like they knew I was coming—it all turned out surprisingly well.
So, yeah, I’m starting to feel summery and outdoorsy. I’m wanting to pack lunches and wear sundresses paint my toenails (which I also just did, an Orange Crush orange). But I actually logged in to recommend an indoor event.
Thursday night AK and I saw Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo at the newly refurbished Mark Taper Forum, which now sort of looks like the Landmark Theatre in Westwood, all dark retro wood and green velvet. And very high quality paper towels in the bathrooms. AK grabbed a big stack for her car.
The play takes place in Iraq in 2003 and (spoiler alert, sort of) almost everyone dies, but nevertheless it’s still something of a comedy, with rapid-fire dialogue that is fresh and youthful (think soldier trying to explain the many meanings of “bitch” to his Iraqi interpreter).
The titular tiger is a thoughtful, existential beast with a tendency, he admits, to get stupid when he gets hungry. Which is how he comes to bite off the hand of a soldier offering him a Slim Jim, and how the soldier’s scared, even stupider buddy comes to freak out and shoot the tiger. The tiger is played by an older man in a schlumpy T-shirt and khakis. No ears, no tail.
This is how much logic there is to the violence in Baghdad, a place where a gardener can turn interpreter, reluctantly serving the Americans who are here to kill the Iraqi elite he used to reluctantly serve. It’s hard to find meaning in life or death, as both the living and the city’s many ghosts discover.
Although it’s a play about war, it is just as much a play about God, or God’s absence, or—as the play unfolds within the gardener’s ripped-apart fallen Eden of a palace yard—the ways we make our own heaven and hell. I can enjoy a hammered-home theme if it’s hammered home stylishly and smartly, but this play has none to offer. When it ended, I was taken off guard. That was it? But it worked, and we walked out of the theater feeling contemplative and a little hopeful.