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Off Broadway

He Says Mlina’s Tale The Lyrical and Disturbing Tale of the Tusk

He Says Mlina’s Tale The Lyrical and Disturbing Tale of the Tusk

We are greeting with facts and figures as we climb the stairs to the Martinson Theater at the Public. All of them, focusing on the debilitating international ivory trade that is destroying Africa’s wildlife, specifically the elephant population. The first reads: “1 Elephant is killed every 15 minutes“, a devastating statistic, but that is just the first of many.  Mlimas Tale, written by Pulitzer Prize winning Lynn Nottage, the wizard behind such dramas as Ruined and Sweat, is the lyrically beautiful and disturbing tale of the tusk told in a superbly orchestrated La Ronde style structure of pairs. It’s crafted with such empathy and wisdom, determined to tell the step by step tale of the “Ivory Highway“, starting with the powerful Mlima, portrayed by the impressive and statuesque Sahr Ngaujah (Fela!) and ending in a rich man’s home on display for all to see.

MLIMA'S TALEWritten by Lynn Nottage Directed by Jo Bonney Featuring Ito Aghayere, Jojo Gonzalez, Kevin Mambo, and Sahr Ngaujah Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernandez Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller Lighting Design by Lap Chi Chu Sound Design by Darron
Kevin Mambo, Ito Aghayere, Sahr Ngaujah, and Jojo Gonzalez. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

As directed by Jo Bonney (Public’s Some People) with an sympathetic eye for detail and human complexities, the journey is a step by step process on characters basically up the financial food chain from the land to the penthouse.  Each layer is assisted by three players; Itos Aghayere (PH’s Familiar), Jojo Gonzalez (Ars Nova’s Small Mouth Sounds), and Kevin Mambo (Public’s The Fortress of Solitude), taking on numerous parts with an ease that is both brilliant and realistic. Wrapping themselves around the problem “that is easy to turn into slogans” (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, Public), scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez (Public’s Miss You Like Hell), with solid assistance from costume designer, Jennifer Moeller (Public’s Tiny Beautiful Things), lighting designer Lap Chi Chu (Public’s Oedipus El Rey), and sound designer Darron L West (Public’s King Lear) continue their magnificent work at The Public Theater, finding the essence of the story and presenting it most engeniously. The spectacle is further enhanced with the beautifully engaging music performed by composer and music director Justine Hicks (Prophetika: An Oratorio), transporting us country to country with an ease and mystical air that only furthers the tragedy being addressed. The over all effect is powerful and moving, guiding us through the web of human forces that make up the problematic and illegal industry of poaching. Mlina’s Tale doesn’t try to solve the difficult issue, as it is far too complex to tackle within this presentation, but the white streaked imagery will leave us all stained as we take in the grandness of this animal and the profound emotional response to his death, feeling in someway complicit in the global dynamic.

MLIMA'S TALEWritten by Lynn Nottage Directed by Jo Bonney Featuring Ito Aghayere, Jojo Gonzalez, Kevin Mambo, and Sahr Ngaujah Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernandez Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller Lighting Design by Lap Chi Chu Sound Design by Darron
Sahr Ngaujah, Jojo Gonzalez, Ito Aghayere and Kevin Mambo in the world premiere of Mlima’s Tale, written by Lynn Nottage and directed by Jo Bonney, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus. Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernandez; Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller; Lighting Design by Lap Chi Chu; Sound Design by Darron L West; Composer and Music Director: Justin Hicks.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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