Breakthrough Theater of Winter Park, Florida
By George Brant
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Josh Scott and Shay Bradford
Carl F. Gauze
On a bright spring day in the east pointy bit of Tennessee, the Sparks Brothers Circus pulled into the middling town of Kingsport. This circus was the biggest event in years, and the mayor personally came out to greet the circus. They unloaded the animals and tents and paraded to the fairground led by Mary, the largest elephant in captivity. Mary also had a toothache. Normally Mary was led by her long-time handler (Bradford), but the ringmaster (Scott) assigned the task to a new man with little elephant experience. The parade began, taking the animals and actors though the muddy town to the circus grounds. The parade went well until Mary spotted a watermelon, a treat for elephants and people. She stepped out of line, and a man died. Now Mary must die, but there’s a technical problem: How do you execute an elephant? And here the story gets gory: hanging an elephant is a serious technical challenge, and not for the feeble.
There are at least three versions of the Mary story floating around, and this one takes a Laramie Project POV. Everybody except Mary tells the tale from their viewpoint. Young children speak in awe, the railroad Engineer (Abby Wallace) knows the limits of their rail yard, and the handler presents the worst of it: he loved Mary, and and lost her to a foolish unexplained action by the Ring Master. The clown (Jordan Bennet) seems to take it worst of all, and he’s angry. But soon the show packs up and heads on down the line, unlikely to ever stop here again. At its heart, this is a love story, gone bad for no good reason. It’s also a story of inexplicably bad judgment, a story of how a presumably competent man impels a disaster from an inexplicably bad judgment. We all hover a few inches from total disaster every day, and once in a while, that disaster jumps out and devours us. Today, it was an elephant. Tomorrow, it could be you. Never forget that.