Mlima’s Tale – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

You are surely long familiar with elephants from literature and movie fame like Babar, Dumbo, Horton, Hathi and Jumbo and dozens of others, but now playwright Lynn Nottage desperately wants you to acknowledge the fragile existence of Mlima, an extraordinary pachyderm from Kenya, a national treasure, decades old, that is prized and protected for his perfect pair of ivory tusks.

Come cautiously enter the jungle home of this honored animal as Ms. Nottage spins “Mlima’s Tale” at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, October 19. By the drama’s end, you will know intimate details of Mlima’s life and tragic death. Poaching by ivory traffickers is a serious and devastating practice that results in the deaths of 55 elephants a day, decimating the noble ranks of the populations from millions to a mere 40,000, making the species endangered.

Jermaine Rowe plays Mlima in all his proud and distinguished honor, his pleasure in listening to the night, hearing the rustle of the brush, the beating of the rain on the leaves, the trumpet cries of friends and the shifting of the earth. His idyllic world is shattered when hunters mercilessly attack him in his native habitat, killing him tragically for his prized tusks of ivory.

A troupe of three versatile actors – Jennean Farmer, Adit Dileep and Carl Hendrick Louis- proceed to enact the stages of Mlima’s demise, as police officials, custom agents, corrupt ivory carvers and wealthy purchasers each take their bribes and allow the devious dealings to occur.

The audience as innocent witnesses to this slaughter is now privy to actions that were previously unknown. Once informed, we are now charged with taking action, if it is only to join the World Wildlife Foundation and, perhaps, Adopt an Elephant. For details, go to gifts.worldwildlife.org, starting at $25 and up.

This brave, memorable species will soon be gone if saviors are not diligent in their fight. Greed drives their motives and corruption fuels their actions. Poetic sayings are illuminated as each scene changes and Mlima’s essence is continually degraded and abused. Mark Lamos directs this probing and penetrating portrait of a vanishing species that needs protection to be saved from extinction.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 1-888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Go online to discover all the associated activities tied to this production.

Come capture the spirit of this magnificent beast as Mlima lived and died in this moving theatrical drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage.

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