By David Castro
Directed by Dennis Neal
Starring Tim Powell
Presented at Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL</strong>
Just how geechee red neck do you have to be to lynch a circus animal? About East Tennessee geechee; back in 1916 The War was just a bad dream and slavery hadn’t died and wasn’t likely to anytime soon. The circus came to town and there Mary the Elephant intentionally killed her novice handler. The town demands vengeance and justice be damned. That’s for those liberal Jews and Yankees up North, not for the children of a loving and vengeful God living here in the hills. But there’s a minor technical point – elephants are large and heavy and no one has enough rope to tie a proper thirteen loop hangman’s knot. It’s beyond the resources of the Baptist church to take care of this problem; only the coal mines and railroads have the technology and spite to do the job properly.
Writer Castro has turned this rather bizarre event in redneck history into the best one-person multi-character tale in circulation and, believe me, I’ve sat through my share of these popular Fringe shows. The story rolls along on alliteration and clearly voiced action and we hear backstories and battle tales and just about any contemporary opinion affected by the tragedy up to and including Mary herself. This was Dennis Neal’s first directorial project; he’s done an excellent job of pulling distinct voices out of actor Powell. Powell was raised in the south as a fundamentalist so he not only grasps the story but nails the hill country voices as well. This is a powerful and compelling drama. It has a splendor and dignity that never feels forced. Catch it if you can; when’s the last time you had an elephant’s view of life on the road?