Tuesday morning, Brad Fleischer woke up to a text message on his phone from a friend that said, “bleep the Tonys.” Fleischer thought, ‘What does that mean?’ Since it was the morning the Tony Award nominations were announced, Fleischer knew it couldn’t be good. Fleischer costars with Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which received three Tony nominations—Best Featured Actor in a Play for Arian Moayed, Lighting, and Sound Design. While the Bengal Tiger team is honored with the nominations, it was expected that the show, written by Rajiv Joseph, would be a contender in more competitive categories like Best Play, Best Direction, and also score a Best Leading Actor nomination for Williams. Fleischer, who seemed undaunted by the Tony news, said he was satisfied simply performing the show for its audiences, but noted a desire for the creative time to be recognized.
“I am on stage with the best young actors I’ve ever worked with, and Robin Williams—I have zero to complain about,” Fleischer said. “But it’s hard because we’re all a part of this play and we feel for Rajiv and Moises [Kaufman, the director]. This play wouldn’t exist without them.”
Bengal Tiger, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010, premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California in 2009 with the same cast (minus Williams). It moved to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles before announcing its Broadway run with the A-list Hollywood star in the title role. Fleischer called the experience a thrilling ride with no regrets. “The Tonys are that weird feeling that makes it seem like a hitch, but if the crowds keep coming, that’s all that matters,” Fleischer said. “We’re doing this for the audience.”
The Tony nominations were not the only significant event to impact the cast of Bengal Tiger this week. The play takes place during U.S. combat in Iraq in 2003. Not surprisingly, when the news broke Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, like the rest of the world, Fleischer was floored. “Whatever your reaction is to bin Laden’s death, as you start talking about it with your friends, you just start remembering the moments of the war,” Fleischer said. “My first thought was that I am so proud to be a part of this production at this time. You do theater to hopefully be moved by things. I am beyond interested to see how this news is going to affect our performances this week.”
VIDEO: Brad Fleischer talks about working with Robin Williams, the excitement (and reality) of Broadway, and stage stunts going awry.