The writing is both sensational and expository. "The tiger keeps talking about epistemology and original sin," complains Kev to Tom, "and it's annoying as fuck." It kind of is, sometimes: while the ideas that these characters grapple with — the perpetuation of violence, the relation of the living and the dead — are of vital importance, it's tiring to hear them told rather than shown, as when Kev mulls, "What happens now that I am aware of and sensitive to the universe?"

That said, Joseph writes a few arrestingly lovely, painful, fraught details, and Speckman and his actors handle them beautifully. One is when an Iraqi prostitute (Allison McCall) inspects Tom's "bionic hand" and sweetly, candidly laughs to Musa in Arabic that it "smells like milk" — a detail somehow at once humane and deeply strange, and reprised later to haunting effect. Such small details best let us feel the enormity of these creatures' immeasurable horrors, as well as their glints of absolution.

BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO | by Rajiv Joseph | Directed by Nathan Speckman | Produced by Mad Horse Theatre Company | though February 3 | 207.730.2389

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