Mlima’s Tale: a powerful and moving drama of the illegal ivory trade now at the Westport Country Playhouse

 

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A powerful, moving and thought provoking play is now on stage at the Westport Country PlayhouseMlima’s Tale is a compelling drama written by two time Pulitizer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and directed by Mark Lamos.  The play was featured Off-Broadway in 2018 and this is its first production since then and cannot be missed.

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The story of Mlima’s Tale is  of a famous and beloved Kenyan elephant named Mlima who lives in a protected national park, but is still being hunted by poachers involved in the illegal ivory trade.   The story follows the hunting of Mlima and the transport of the precious tusks of this animal to Vietnam and finally on to China.  Along the way the elements of human greed, corruption, and crime are exposed as part of this illicit trade.

The author brings not only great respect to the elephants and their plight, but humanizes them during the performance.  We hear the voices of the elephants as they run through the brush to escape the poachers, and as they cry out for loved ones.  It is traumatic tale that grabs the audience and does not let them go. Jermaine Rowe plays Mlima and his words and body language give a voice to this wonderful animal.  After the hunt Mr. Rowe takes on the part of the soul or the spirit of Mlima as the tusks are being transported.  He follow along the trade route and  physically touches each of the persons involved in the trade and marks them with the sign of their crime with white chalk.

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The message of “Mlima’s Tale” is straight forward, clear and direct. This is like no other drama I have ever seen on stage.  The set is simple and allows the actors and the story to drive the message.  The back screen of the stage is lit with changing images as well as  written quotes that convey the inhumanity of how we share this planet with other beings, and harvest them as if they had no soul.   This unique approach to story telling is quite compelling and I found myself riveted to the action on stage during the performance.  The somberness of the subject matter, the creative story telling, and the projected imagery of the written quotes constantly has the audience contemplating the seriousness of the elephant’s plight, and that of all exploited animals.    The play is 90 minutes long with no intermission.  There is no usual break to reflect on what is happening to in the play, but rather the audience is drawn into the story until its conclusion.  Like all his work, director Mark Lamos has done a brilliant job with this unique drama.

The other  three cast members  have the task of playing multiple roles including Kenyan hunters, corrupt officials, Kenyan park rangers, ivory traders, an American ship captain, Vietnamese port officials, and even a wealthy Chinese woman looking to buy an ivory trinket for her luxury flat.  Jeannean Farmer, Adit Dileep and Carl Hendrick Louis are up to the task of the many characters they play. Each has an impressive resume of Broadway, Off Broadway, and television roles and they provide a fine performance.

This is a rare play that is unique in its presentation but powerful in its delivery and its message.  Do not miss it.

for tickets and information >>https://www.westportplayhouse.org/mlimastale

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court

Westport Ct     (203) 227-4177

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