"Elephant's Graveyard," a southern tale that should be put to rest
"Elephant's Graveyard" is a play that explores humanity's malicious nature. The story recounts a terrible real-life event in a small Tennessee town.
The play centers on a circus troupe who detail the story of their star, a massive female elephant named Mary. An unfamiliar trainer is paired with Mary during a public parade, which ends with the death of the trainer, and Mary condemned by the townspeople and labeled a murderer. Outraged, the public demands the elephant is publicly executed, despite some of the circus members protests.
The play is very character based, and allows for most of the actors their moment in the spotlight, quite literally thanks to the SMC lighting crew. Although some actors flourished under the demanding roles they were selected for, many did not rise to that challenge. The imaginative plot and the story lines dark themes called for equally compelling characters, which were at times not delivered.
The Ringmaster, played by Theodore Folsome, leads the rest of the troupe as the central figure but was unable to set a stellar example as he spent most of the play grasping for lines. His counterpart, the main female lead entitled Ballet Girl (Silvana Gonzalez Manzur) carried half the play with her on point performance. From her sparkling makeup to blinding smile, one felt as if Miss Gonzalez was a born performer, circus or otherwise. Her understanding of the character was clear, as displayed by her well rehearsed accent and her delicate dancer movements which were showcased throughout the play.
Another brilliant performance was given by Staffan Edenholm, who played Mary’s main trainer. Edenholm’s character stood out immediately from his Disney prince good looks to his powerful monologues that truly encapsulated the play's somber genuine undertones, beneath the flash and glam of the circus facade. Edenholm’s monologue describing Mary’s death and the aftermath is one of the play’s shining moments, and one can’t help but sympathize for the trainer who had been working diligently and lovingly with Mary for years.
Another standout performance was given by the town’s preacher Brendan Cobia, who was able to accurately and vivaciously play his role of holy man. Cobia’s conviction during his performance was able to lift the play out of some of its admittedly dull moments.
Rojan Telo lightheartedly portrayed the circus strongman and provided some much needed laughs throughout the dramatic piece.
Many of the roles required accents, ranging from southern to European. Although some actors were able to do so with reasonable believability, one couldn’t help but notice that half the dialogue was lost in forced accents and stammered lines.
Overall this play was spectacular visually but some of the actors fell flat in comparison to the clear stars of the show.
This play is definitely not appropriate for the entire family, and parents should read the synopsis before considering taking their children to a show which mostly details a vicious small town executing an animal over an accident.
The actual point of the play remains mostly ambiguous, the disconnection most of the actors displayed with their characters left the audience confused. This play requires extreme, almost forced focus from the crowd in order to comprehend the uncoordinated jumps from one character to the next. The play does however find it's niche at times, when it drops the over the top performance that many of the actors could not handle, and sticks to the simple southern cautionary tale that it was meant to be.
Viewers who enjoyed movies like "Moulin Rouge" and "The Great Gatsby" will be mesmerized by the set design and costumes.
Despite the attention to detail, the play fell flat at times, but it’s redeeming heartfelt characters and interesting historical value will leave the viewer satisfied.