Perhaps because I was so blown away by last night’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites by the San Francisco Conservatory Opera Theatre, I needed to have my sensibilities balanced by a healthy dose of atheist rationality. That rationality came, with a bit of irony, in Charles Isherwood’s New York Times review of the Broadway opening of Rajiv Joseph’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. The rationality, however, came from Joseph himself, rather than Isherwood.
Without really spoiling anything about the play, a key plot element involves the killing of the tiger (played by Robin Williams) by a solider in the American forces occupying Baghdad after the city has fallen. The tiger then spends the rest of the play as a ghost haunting the soldier. At this point in the review, Isherwood quoted one of the tiger’s lines, which is text that tweaked by sensibilities:
It’s alarming, this life after death. The fact is, tigers are atheists. All of us. Unabashed. Heaven and hell? Those are just metaphorical constructs that represent “hungry” and “not hungry.”
Since ours is a household with a cat, I grasp this text with perfectly appreciative understanding. For that matter Plato’s conception of human nature is not that all different, even if it involves a few more pleasure-pain issues than hunger!