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Man's Dominion (Elephant Lab at the Lillian)

Wow! David Castro’s pro-animal, anti-fundamentalist-religion one-man show is an amazing piece of theatre.  Agit-prop at its base, director Dennis Neal and actor Tim Powell have created a totally-forgotten piece of American history, a play in 10 characters which examines a ‘lost’ event in American history. In September 1916 the citizens of Erwin, Tennessee lynched an elephant.  Yeah, a large Indian elephant, Mary, 18-years old and a star circus attraction who had only known life in captivity.  Mary had killed her trainer, Red Eldridge, on his second day of work. For this, Mary was sentenced to death and the giant railroad cranes in the Blue Ridge mountain rail hub of Erwin were he cause of her demise.

As hideous as that act was (nobody knew what was behind her rage), the township was so horrified that they conducted a trial and condemned Mary to be executed.  Powell plays all the characters, each in a distinctive voice and attitude.  It’s all sort of funny until the climactic end when she is hoisted by a crane and hung, and then I challenge anyone not to leave with tears in their eyes, it’s that well-presented.

Clearly aimed at the PETA-crowd and other animal lovers, this strange bit of hour-long theatre is compelling, amusing, appalling and fascinating.  Castro is quite willing to attack the religious fanatics who demanded an eye-for-an-eye retribution (they do so deserve his attack), most of which makes for persuasive theatre (or any art-form, for that matter).  His characters are made whole by director Neal and actor Powell who clearly relishes his job here.

A hit at this summer’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, you are encouraged to see it, just for yourselves, as it’s that good a piece o’ theatre.

Man’s Dominion plays through October 5th, 2014, at the Elephant Lab (a deliberate choice of 99-seat-theatre? Well, why not!), part of Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038.  It plays Saturday’s at 7pm and Sunday’s at 5pm.