Mlima's Tale
Closed 1h 30m
Mlima's Tale
81

Mlima's Tale NYC Reviews and Tickets

81%
(139 Reviews)
Positive
91%
Mixed
7%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant

About the Show

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage returns to the Public with a new drama, which takes us on a journey that starts in a game park in Kenya and goes around the world.

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Member Reviews (139)

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75
Sophisticated, Relevant, Intelligent, Great staging, Ambitious

See it if you like current stories of greed/corruption, told w well-drawn characters. Mlima (eleph) is beautiful to watch, but his poetry wears thin.

Don't see it if you collect ivory. MT's staging is innovative/impressive, as are sound and light. Well-acted. I wasn't terribly moved, but I was engaged.

89
Haunting, Exquisite, Great acting, Relevant, Profound

See it if You can admire beauty in despair, see a tragic problem from all sides including your own hand in it and enjoy it as theatre. Brilliant!

Don't see it if You have a hard time with metaphors, have a cold heart regarding animal rights or are easily disturbed.

Critic Reviews (31)

The New York Times
April 15th, 2018

"Nottage’s beautiful, endlessly echoing portrait of a murder and its afterlife...Nottage and her director have shaped this story with such theatrical inventiveness and discipline that it never feels sensational, on the one hand, or pious, on the other...She packs a wealth of cultural, political, and economic detail into each scene...Yet the facts, figures, and folklore never feel jimmied in; the exchange of information among the characters is fluid and always appropriate to the circumstances."
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Time Out New York
April 16th, 2018

"Director Jo Bonney’s beautiful production traces the path of Mlima’s prized tusks through the international ivory market...'Mlima’s Tale' has an exceptional cast, whose four actors of color play multiple roles (sometimes transracially). The world Nottage has brought to the stage is rich with detail, its characters complex and engaging. The epic journey falls short only in its foreseeable and somewhat anticlimactic ending."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
April 15th, 2018

"While it’s not a revelatory theatrical experience, the show is tightly crafted and engagingly performed...Moves us swiftly and often effectively through its story...If Nottage’s play lacks something, it’s a sense of surprise...Bonney does crisp, uptempo work with her actors, and scores the transitions between Nottage’s duets at a confident clip...The dialogue between the corrupt human beings often crackles, but when Mlima is left alone onstage, he’s got to deliver somewhat purple monologues."
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The Hollywood Reporter
April 15th, 2018

"More didactic than narratively involving, the show never accumulates much dramatic force...The ensemble's frequent shifts in gender and nationality are sometimes confusing, and while there are many powerful moments, the narrative is choppy and disjointed...Clocking in at a mere 80 minutes, the play doesn't wear out its welcome. It also features occasional doses of pungent humor...At its conclusion, you wind up feeling exactly the same way as when it began."
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New York Daily News
April 15th, 2018

"A haunting drama about avarice and ivory...The subject matter isn’t ground-breaking, but Nottage’s by turns lacerating and lyrical play leaves a mark. So does Mlima (Sahr Ngaujah, an actor with a mighty physical presence and voice) on the greedy murderers, middle-men, and millionaire collectors connected to his death. They’re deftly played by Ito Aghayere, Jojo Gonzalez and Kevin Mambo. Musician Justin Hicks adds sonic textures to Jo Bonney’s fluid and striking staging."
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AM New York
April 15th, 2018

"Three versatile 'players' cross racial and gender boundaries to portray numerous figures, ranging from corrupt bureaucrats and traders to a cargo ship captain and sculptor...Nottage’s underlying notion (that people from all kinds of backgrounds can easily become engaged in unethical activities) is genuinely unsettling. It turns what is a highly unusual drama about an elephant into a tragedy with universal implications."
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Theatermania
April 15th, 2018

"Nottage's unrelenting machine of a play...Audiences won't soon forget the anguished wail of its title character...In many ways, 'Mlima's Tale' is a sharper critique of capitalism than Nottage's last play, 'Sweat'...A model of efficiency. The three players portray every human, using subtle physicality and muted accents to distinguish roles without slipping into caricature...Eighty straight minutes of searing brilliance."
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BroadwayWorld
April 18th, 2018

"With his lean, muscular physique suggesting the massive size and elegant curves of 'big tusker' elephant hesitantly surveying the evening landscape of his savannah terrain, Sahr Ngaujah gives a captivating performance, poetic in both movement and emotion...It's said that, without a proper burial, elephants will haunt their killers forever. Mlima indeed remains a presence throughout director Jo Bonney's graceful Public Theater production."
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Lighting & Sound America
April 16th, 2018

"There's nothing especially surprising about Nottage's tale, but her narrative method is so elegant and her character sketches so incisive that they keep us vitally interested ....Beginning with her adept handling of the well-chosen cast, Bonney's direction allows 'Mlima's Tale' to unfold in unusually seamless fashion...It is easy to marvel once again at Nottage's versatility. She is unmatched in her skill at immersing herself in factual material out of which she creates a compelling drama."
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Talkin' Broadway
April 15th, 2018

"Hovering over the entire production is the spirit of the grand and glorious Mlima...enacted in a most evocative display of performance art by Sahr Ngaujah...Nottage gives us the kind of artistic precision we have come to expect from the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner...And yet, for all its powerful moments, the play feels as if it is missing the most important voice of Mlima himself...This is what we need more of. What is Mlima's story?...Too much 'docu' and not enough 'drama.'"
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New York Stage Review
April 15th, 2018

"An engrossing web that will likely grasp your conscience and stay with you...Nguajah is not 'playing' an elephant. Rather he is an everyman...this is a stunning performance, at some times almost painful to watch but at all times impossible to turn away from...Nottage has set Bonney to work on a deceptively-simple bare stage...The results are remarkable...It's hard to fathom how the Public production can be bettered...As for Nottage, this is yet another towering American drama."
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New York Stage Review
April 15th, 2018

"The imaginative nature of Nottage’s latest play, and how beautifully her text has been realized by Jo Bonney’s fine production, makes for an especially resonant stage work...The subtle, sometimes sanctimonious double-talk in which these people bargain and extort and trade for the ivory between each other is chilling to hear...Although a certain inevitability creeps into the progression of the story, the drama’s brevity, fluency, and rueful content more than compensate."
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TheaterScene.net
April 28th, 2018

"Lynn Nottage constantly astonishes. The author of 'Intimate Apparel' and the recent Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Sweat' is now represented by 'Mlima's Tale' at the Public Theater's Martinson Hall, a heartbreaking examination of the illegal trade in ivory and its toll on elephants and humans alike."
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Theater Pizzazz
April 27th, 2018

"A stunning new play...The glory of Mlima's story is how Nottage and her gifted director, Bonney, tell it in theatrical terms...Ngaujah is magnificent...He writhes his stately body in dance/theatre style...Three other actors play multiple roles with precision and virtuosity...Nottage's powerful parable extends beyond the specifics of illegal ivory trading. It reminds us that we are citizens of one planet, and that we are all exploiting our natural environment."
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CurtainUp
April 17th, 2018

"A fascinating story of human greed...A terrific play. Ngaujah gives a mesmerizing performance as do the three other actors who nimbly play the many characters involved in the story...With Bonney at the helm, 'Milma's Tale' is given a visually and aurally powerful production...While Ngaujah is silent throughout, except for his moving opening and closing monologue his silent presence brilliantly exemplifies that you don't need words to convey alarm, pain and despair."
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Front Row Center
April 16th, 2018

"'Mlima’s Tale' is a shattering work...A tight, unsparing script...A director and four actors of immense talent...Everyone knows that there are things, moves, that a body cannot do. Cannot. Nope. Contortions and expansions that would turn a man into an elephant of physical, emotional and mental majesty. It is pretty much impossible. Lucky for us, Sahr Ngaujah did not get that memo, because the leap he takes into this impossible sphere is astonishing....'Mlima’s Tale' is a play not to be missed."
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Front Mezz Junkies
April 26th, 2018

"It’s crafted with such empathy and wisdom...The overall effect is powerful and moving, guiding us through the web of human forces that make up the problematic and illegal industry of poaching. 'Mlima’s Tale' doesn’t try to solve the difficult issue, as it is far too complex to tackle within this presentation, but the white streaked imagery will leave us all stained as we take in the grandness of this animal and the profound emotional response to his death, feeling in someway complicit."
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Exeunt Magazine
April 17th, 2018

"Ngaujah evokes Mlima with only the subtle, lumbering grace of his movements...A round, complex, and quite stunning portrait of this animal's pain and deep emotions...Through the inventive, sensitive performance of Ngaujah. Without tricks of theater or staging, the actor finds communion with the soul of an elephant, at once revealing unexpected emotions and signaling that more oceans of passion reside within Mlima than the stage could contain."
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T
April 20th, 2018

"This monstrous tale is relayed with exquisite detail and stirring magical realism...Ngaujah dominates the stage with an incomparable strength and persona. His Mlima is larger than life and transcends pain and death...Under Bonney's fluid direction, the scenes move seamlessly from one to the other...Counterpoints every 'tale' of greed, deceit, dishonesty, and equivocation extant in every transaction - economic or political - that threatens the spiritual core of the global community."
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New York Theater
April 15th, 2018

"The unusual new play is staged poetically by Jo Bonney, with a memorable performance by Sahr Ngaujah...The quick-change artistry of the three actors is impressive, although it’s not always clear who they’ve become. The corruption feels well researched, although it’s a sad comment on modern times that there is little surprising in the characters’ duplicity, and it starts to feel repetitive. What stays engaging is the beautiful stagecraft."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
April 20th, 2018

"A highly artistic exposé of a scandalous wildlife dilemma…that fills its…80 minutes with fascinating information contained in dramatically compelling scenes…Ngaujah, gifted with physical and vocal beauty, makes the pachyderm a hauntingly tragic presence; he need merely stand there…for you to feel how deeply he's invested. Aghayere, Gonzalez, and Mambo…play their multiple roles with exceptional versatility, altering their accents and attitudes with spot-on accuracy."
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Times Square Chronicles
April 21st, 2018

"A riveting haunting piece of theatre...Ngaujah portrays 'Mlima,' in a series of contorted movements...His striking visual presence is slightly diminished when he speaks. It is full of fury and loud, even when he is speaking of his beloved family...Aghayere, Gonzalez, Mambo are amazing as they cross racial and gender boundaries portraying multiple characters...Bonney's unusual staging is unsettling and I do not think I will ever be able to look at a piece of ivory without feeling the horror."
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Gotham Playgoer
April 15th, 2018

"All these people are played by three fine actors...Occasionally I became confused about who they were playing at any given moment...Nottage attempts with intermittent success to give the characters enough individuality to keep them from seeming just cogs in a machine. Her most stunning creation is Mlima, charismatically portrayed by Sahr Ngaujah...It’s all admirable, but a bit remote and didactic, unlike previous plays by Nottage that I have enjoyed."
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The Wrap
April 15th, 2018

"Ngaujah’s truly balletic movements fascinate and his baritone speaking voice is mellifluous...Nottage is better at anthropomorphizing her lead elephant than she is any of the humans who later appear...The structure is so schematic that it bleeds the story of any tension. While the relative ease of poaching might be Nottage’s point, the journey of Mlima’s tusks is so drama-free it’s a wonder elephants aren’t already extinct...What propels the story forward is Ngaujah’s presence."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
May 10th, 2018

"Nottage has written a powerful play, creatively performed by a superb cast and spellbindingly directed...It succeeds by combining impressionism and reality to make for a unique theater experience...The show’s magic rests largely on the impressionistic portrayal of Mlima...The magisterial physicality of Ngaujah and his balletic artistry...This is one of the season’s most essential and meaningful productions, with an impact far beyond its 80-minute intermission-less length."
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T
May 11th, 2018

“Features innovative and spare staging...This incisive 80-minute explosive device of a play follows the spiritual voyage of Mlima, a beloved Kenyan National Park elephant murdered for his prodigious tusks...Based on an article by Damon Tabor, Nottage’s cynical roundelay of greed maps out the trial of corruption which makes such cruelty commonplace and lucrative...All of the human roles are played with dexterity and diversity...‘Mlima’s Tale’ is a harrowing trip, but well worth taking.”
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Daily Beast
April 18th, 2018

"Passionate, but the drama is less in speech than in movement...The play follows the death and desecration of a wild and iconic African elephant...whose plundered tusks we asked to imagine in the muscular, graceful shape of actor Ngaujah...His performance is a ghostly ballet as the other actors play a variety of characters...Bonney's taut direction brings to life both the grimly real, and lyrical and spiritual...It is Ngaujah's presence as 'Mlima' himself that is the most commanding on stage."
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Financial Times (UK)
April 16th, 2018

"Lynn Nottage’s new play still packs a revelatory punch that opens up a clandestine world of poaching, smuggling, hustling and master craftsmanship...Kevin Mambo, Jojo Gonzalez and Ito Aghayere juggle their countless parts with remarkable dexterity and macabre wit...Whereas 'Sweat' seemed too predictable and formally schematic, 'Mlima’s Tale' is well served by a looser dramatic structure adapted from 'La Ronde.'"
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T
April 16th, 2018

"The best part of this tale is Milma's journey and his spirituality...Ngaujah's performance is emotionally intense with tremendously masculine yet poetic physicality. He is superb...Not a bad play. It may be just overly clinical while being informative with its moral teachings...Three actors playing so many characters does not help the generic feeling of this fable...All this leads to the three of us who attended this play feeling disappointedly disconnected at the end."
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Village Voice
May 11th, 2018

"The subject of 'Mlima's Tale' is, quite literally, the elephant in the room. Mlima, embodied onstage with heart-rending roars and writhings by...Ngaujah...Three actors play all the human roles, sliding with ease among a string of ethnic and gender identities...A running irony is that Nottage makes every scene contain praise of the magnificent beast...Bonney's production enhances the stark and quiet ironies of Nottage's script."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
April 17th, 2018

"The shirtless and magnificent Ngaujah kicks off and concludes 'Mlima’s Tale' with direct address speeches that, along with Bonney's staging of the play evoke deep dark spaces, inter-generational wisdom and danger in the distance...I found the experience of the play an amorphous wash...Often unclear precisely which character is which and how all the pieces link together, however, I did sense that each little step, interaction and compromise does lead to the next in the plot."
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