Robin Williams received rave reviews for his Broadway acting debut Thursday in the new play “Bengal Tiger at the Bagdhad Zoo.” He is likely to land a Best Play Actor bid at the upcoming Tony Awards. Were he to win, Williams would finally complete the EGOT and become the eleventh person to have all four major showiz awards.
Williams won his first of four Best Comedy Album Grammys for “Reality … What a Concept” back in 1979, the first of his two consecutive Emmys for Individual Variety Performance for “Carol, Carl, Whoopi & Robin” in 1987 and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” in 1997.
While Williams was trained as a stage actor at Gotham’s famed Julliard school, “Bengal Tiger” is his first legit rialto appearance. He did his stand-up routine in a Broadway house in 2002 and was part of an all-star production of “Waiting for Godot” helmed by grand slammer Mike Nichols at an off-Broadway theater back in 1988.
In Rajiv Joseph‘s absurdist play, Williams transforms himself into the title character. And, as New York Times critic Charles Isherwood noted, “Williams, the kinetic comic who has sometimes revealed a marshmallowy streak in movies, never indulges the audience’s hunger for displays of humorous invention or pinpricks of poignancy. He gives a performance of focused intelligence and integrity, embodying the animal who becomes the play’s questioning conscience with a savage bite that never loosens its grip”
Raved Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press “Williams stalks this fascinating, ambitious play about war as a restless tiger’s ghost in human clothing, all bushy-bearded and sarcastic. The range of emotions Moayed conveys over the course of the play is stunning, while Titizian is nightmarishly good as the murderous Hussein. Williams sinks his teeth into his meaty part, sometimes bending the script to serve his voice, not the other way around.
And for Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times, “Williams submits himself wholly to the play’s utterly natural surrealism. Concerns that the actor might turn this into a vehicle for his signature shtick are dispelled right way: Williams is in complete sync with the blasted tragicomic vision of the playwright, whose ample humor is far too sneaky for stand-up showboating. He’s put himself at the drama’s service, and if that means ceding the stage to Moayed, whose poignancy has only deepened, so be it.”