Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE Review – Greed’s Stain

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The stage is set with a backdrop of torn canvas drop cloths in various sizes—juxtaposed in a manner somewhere in between random and studied. (Scenic Design: Joy Ahn) The seven barefoot members of the cast file in, all, except one, clad simply in loose non-descript clothes, that will later allow them to don jacket or other accessory to become one of the multiple roles they play.  More immediately, their loose fitting garb allows them to perform the ensemble choreography that is—in this writer’s view—in itself sufficient to make this play a top pick for your time.

Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE
(left to right)David Goodloe and Michael Turrentine
Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE
(left to right)Lewon Johns, David Goodloe and Michael Turrentine

The exceptional costume is on David Goodloe, playing the elephant Mlima.  (Costume Design: Caitlin McLeod).  He is bare chested, with torso adorned with a white tattoo we later come to realize is the image of Mlima’s imagined tusks.   These tusks, the source of ivory so adored in many Eastern cultures, are the driver of the story.

Mlima is regal.  Mlima is soulful, perhaps reminding others of the one-time bestseller When Elephants Weep.  And Mlima is brave until his end, which is actually near the play’s beginning, when we see him attempt to shake off death’s inevitable grasp.

Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE
(center) David Goodloe with (clockwise from front) Michael Turrentine, Chris Pow, Lewon Johns, Sarah Lo and Collin McShane

Griffin Theatre Shows Usual Ensemble Performance Prowess

It’s the first image of Mlima – and one that bookends the story— that will likely most impress you, in this writer’s view.  Here it is not just Goodloe, but the entire ensemble, with precise movements showing us Mlima’s inquisitive trunk, twitching ears, and slow steady pace likely making a thundering sound to all smaller animals in his path.  If you have ever had the chance to go to an elephant preserve, you know that Griffin Theatre’s ensemble under the direction of Jerrell L. Henderson and movement designer Jacinda Ratcliffe has it down!  In these scenes, and actually throughout, every cast member excels.  For Chicago theater regulars, it is especially gratifying to see some of these newer-to-the-scene acting talents given roles where they can show their stuff and shine, as they all do.

 

Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE
(left to right)David Goodloe, Chris Pow and Lewon Johns
Griffin Theatre MLIMA’S TALE
(clockwise from center) David Goodloe, Chris Pow, Lewon Johns, Ben Chang, Michael Turrentine and Sarah Lo

Mlima might die, but he remains as a ghost commenting silently about his tale unfolding. Step by step we follow the trail of greed, spotlighting those cashing in at every turn, to get rich, or show their unabashed wealth with none of the shame it should engender.  From poachers, to middlemen, and ultimately the socialite unveiling her new treasure to her retinue, we see one after another chapter in the story of greed that is Mlima’s Tale.  Meanwhile, Mlima’s body contorts more and more in pain, becoming more and more ghostlike.   The denouement of every scene, becomes the much anticipated moment when Mlima gives each character their well-deserved stigmata of shame.

Award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage has given us a wordy script.  For this writer, it is more the brilliance of the physical theater add by Griffin that makes this must-see theater.  If you feel comfortable with references to fracking as “provisional energy” this might not be your top pick.  If you feel that you could find a place in a herd of elephants weeping for the planet and what man’s greed has wrought, this is a top pick for your time.

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Title: Mlima’s Tale
Playwright: Lynn Nottage
Director: Jerrell L. Henderson

When:

Through March 21, 2020

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm.

Please note: there will be an added performance on Monday, March 16 at 7:30 pm.

Run Time:  90 minutes, no intermission

Where:

Raven Theatre’s Schwartz Stage
6157 N. Clark St.
Chicago

Tickets:

$38+

For full price tickets and information, go to Griffin Theatre website or call (773) 338-2177

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

Photos by Michael Brosilow

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Amy Munice

About the Author:

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES BY AMY MUNICE.

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