In Play Reviews

Mlima is one of the treasured “big tuskers” elephants in a Kenyan wild animal preserve. Protected by the government, he roams freely for the 50-plus years of his life until he is felled by poachers. His huge, blemish-free tusks are then smuggled out of the country while public relations wonks attempt to do damage control with the national and international backlash.

Lynn Nottage‘s 80-minute play Mlima’s Tale opens Profile Theatre‘s 2020-21 season, Profile Theatre On Air. It is an energetic play. People who kill elephants for money and trade their precious ivory must be energetic to stay ahead of the law. And the buyers? They’re all very special, above it all somehow. If you can’t relate to why they need these cruel and illegal treasures, well, you just don’t understand their preciousness.

A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, playwright Nottage uses this brilliant play to draw parallels between the body trade of animals and the body trade of humans beginning some 400 years ago when African people were pursued and snatched from their homes, only to travel the brutal intercontinental journey into slavery. It’s a disturbing yet effective device.

From top left, Keith Randolph Smith, Treasure Luan, Ithica Tell, and Delphon DJ Curtis.

What lifts Mlima’s Tale above a depressing 80 minutes is that it’s an engaging story. And the production mounted by Profile Theatre could not be better. The gravelly, irony-laden voice of Keith Randolph Smith as Mlima, continues to comment throughout the play. Ithica Tell, Treasure Lunan, and Delphon DJ Curtis assume the roles of all other characters, and sing the hauntingly beautiful music composed by Jenn Mundia.

Directed by Reginald L. Douglas, this audio production offers a powerful and moving theatrical experience! The creative team includes Elisheba Ittoop, sound design; Dominique Fawn Hill, costume design; Stephanie Gaslin, dialect consultant; Robert A.K. Gonyo, sound engineer; Maya Bourgeois, stage manager; Jamie M. Rea, line producer.

Mlima’s Tale is available to stream through November 4. Rentals are available on a sliding scale; Profile members may access the audio production for free. For ticket information click here.

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