Considering Elephant's Graveyard
by Sean Bartlett
My career with HG so far is book-ended by Laramie Project and Elephant’s Graveyard. The two shows have many similarities and many possibilities for introspection as both an individual and as a member of a broader society. Both offer us a mirror that promises redemption if we look deeply and honestly.
That we are, this time, enacting an event from 1916 and can find so many parallels with contemporary society is a testament to the playwright's ability to encapsulate human nature as well as a depressing commentary on how long it takes our society to move beyond the baser nature of our existence.
What is justice? What is redemption? When should we respect the boundaries of community and when should we accept technology as it moves us beyond our prior limitations?
To say that my character struggles with this would be disingenuous, but he does present aspects of this struggle and clearly represents the need for defined rules and the perception of justice. The play itself, and the other characters, represent the bounds of true justice, even if my character is not able to look beyond his own limitations to perceive the broader reality. But, isn’t that an essential necessity for any consideration of justice? Don’t we need to be able to crawl inside the skin of each individual in order to see the truth of a situation? Theater is a great medium for exploring that, and this play does that in spades.
While we weave wonderfully from the sinner and the saint of womanhood to the complexities of the abused, yet loving, jester who serves as a reminder of how many seek redemption by oppressing those with the most sensitive natures. We sympathize with the trainer who embodies the capacity for love and question the ringmaster and tour manager as they are able to purely present capitalism with all its warts. We weave through many of the different aspects of humanity and are faced with bracing clarity how our limited perceptual boundaries inhibit our capacity for redemption.
Maybe we would all be better if we ate more peanuts. That, too, becomes clear once you see the play.