Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘Mlima’s Tale’ at 1st Stage

Lynn Nottage's drama is structured in a way so every scene connects to the next to detail the international ivory trade industry.

Mlima's Tale -- Photo: DJ Corey
Mlima’s Tale — Photo: DJ Corey

Lynn Nottage became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009. In 2017, she became the first woman to win the prize twice, a record that still stands.

Her two prize-winning plays couldn’t be more different — 2009’s Ruined focused on sexual slavery in Congo, while 2017’s Sweat centered on the kind of disaffection in rural and blue-collar parts of the U.S. that fueled Trump’s rise, among other grievances — though both offered remarkably realistic depictions of a timely and important issue informed by Nottage’s deep and thorough-going approach to research and frank and honest assessment of the key players and factors involved.

All of that applies to another Nottage play that originally debuted Off-Broadway one year after Sweat.

Right now, Virginia’s 1st Stage is offering the regional premiere of Mlima’s Tale, structured in a way that every scene connects to the next to detail the international ivory trade industry.

The focus is on the titular elderly “big tusker” elephant from a protected reserve in Kenya, and the outsized and haunting shadow he casts on the string of characters who orchestrate and profit from his killing, including Somali poachers, corrupt Kenyan authorities, and a master ivory carver.

Directed by José Carrasquillo, the 1st Stage production stars Jeremy Keith Hunter as Mlima, with Deidra LaWan Starnes, Andrew Ly, and Shaquille Stewart taking on the multiple ensemble roles.

The design team assembled to help bring this monumental show to life include Giorgos Tsappas on sets, Sarah Tundermann on lighting, David Lamont Wilson on sound, Moyenda Kulemeka on costumes, and Jon Roberts, who created projections for the production.

Extended through Oct. 9 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., in Tysons, Va.

Tickets are $20 to $50. Visit or call 703-854-1856.

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