A review by Suzanne Birrell.
My friend who is from northeaster England and who accompanies me to many plays said of Man’s Dominion now playing at the Studio C Artists that it was the absolute best play she’s seen since she’s been here. Man’s Dominion takes you on a roller coaster of emotion and thoughts. It is profound writing coupled with insightful direction and a brilliant performance. Man’s Dominion, written by screenwriter David Castro, is storytelling at its finest.
The story is based on the hanging of Mary, a Circus elephant, in Erwin, NC, in 1916. Mary is not the first animal on record to have been hanged but she is probably the largest. (In the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars a shipwrecked monkey was tried and hung as a French spy in Hartlepool, England.)
The story is indeed a sad one and is billed as a story of the true nature of man but that is not to say it is all bad or sad. Within the play, each character has an arc. The Ringmaster introduces the marvels of a circus with excitement and expectation and then transitions to Charlie Sparks, the owner of the circus who loved Mary and deeply mourns her loss. He understands the American way: a man was killed so someone had to pay. Red Eldridge, the man who was killed by the elephant, gives us cause for laughter while presenting himself has an innocent victim who abused the elephant as directed, but who looked into her eyes and shares a bond of understanding. He tells us the future and speaks of forgiveness. Hobo Joe, a clown gives us more cause for laughter while presenting wise insights and reflections in a caustic cynical way. Rev George McKee preaches vengeance and quotes the bible, “Man shall have dominion over all the animals of the earth.” He prides himself on not riling the crowd into condemning Charlie Sparks for contributing to the crime by naming his elephant Mary and so blaspheming the name of the mother of the Christ. Jake Haskins, a hunter, can’t bring himself to murder an animal who is chained up while discussing the logistics of putting down a five ton rogue elephant. Fish, a one armed Irish roustabout, shares how they were all family in the Sparks Circus and Mary was one of the family. Capt. Prescott is an old black man who points out that it is beasts who do the hanging. And finally Mary the elephant makes her entrance and we laugh because vanity is her first concern. She speaks of memories and life and death. Man’s Dominion is powerful storytelling.
Tim Powell is a chameleon. Under the direction of Director John Coppola who built on the original direction by Dennis Neal, Tim is all of the above characters. From accents, to posture, to movement, to voice, to energy, the transitions happen as an organic telling of a story. Tim Powell’s performance is absolutely delicious.
Jim Furmston composed and performed the original music from circus theme to Joplin styled rag. His music is an integral part of the story telling. The Studio C Theatre is a perfect and intimate setting for this three ring story. The set design was spot on.
Man’s Dominion is not to be missed. If you saw it at the Fringe, see it again. The restraints of time have been removed and you will now have time to digest all the courses of this delectable performance.
Studio C Artists
6448 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038 323-988-1175
Order tickets via Eventbrite: http:// mansdominion.eventbrite.com/
firstname.lastname@example.org www.studiocartists.com http://mansdominion.com
Jan 29, 30, Feb 5, 6 Feb 12, 13 Feb 19, 20 @ 8:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays