What Critics say about Man’s Dominion:



"My friend who is from northeastern England and who accompanies me to many plays said of Man's Dominion now playing at the Studio C Artists that it was the absolute best play she's seen since she's been here. Man's Dominion takes you on a roller coaster of emotion and thoughts. It is profound writing coupled with insightful direction and a brilliant performance. Man's Dominion, written by screenwriter David Castro, is storytelling at its finest.

The story is based on the hanging of Mary, a Circus elephant, in Erwin, TN, in 1916.  Mary is not the first animal on record to have been hanged but she is probably the largest. (In the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars a shipwrecked monkey was tried and hung as a French spy in Hartlepool, England.) 

 The story is indeed a sad one and is billed as a story of the true nature of man but that is not to say it is all bad or sad. Within the play, each character has an arc. The Ringmaster introduces the marvels of a circus with excitement and expectation and then transitions to Charlie Sparks, the owner of the circus who loved Mary and deeply mourns her loss. He understands the American way: a man was killed so someone had to pay. Red Eldridge, the man who was killed by the elephant, gives us cause for laughter while presenting himself has an innocent victim who abused the elephant as directed, but who looked into her eyes and shares a bond of understanding. He tells us the future and speaks of forgiveness. Hobo Joe, a clown gives us more cause for laughter while presenting wise insights and reflections in a caustic cynical way.  Rev George McKee preaches vengeance and quotes the bible, "Man shall have dominion over all the animals of the earth." He prides himself on not riling the crowd into condemning Charlie Sparks for contributing to the crime by naming his elephant Mary and so blaspheming the name of the mother of the Christ. Jake Haskins, a hunter, can't bring himself to murder an animal who is chained up while discussing the logistics of putting down a five ton rogue elephant. Fish, a one armed Irish roustabout, shares how they were all family in the Sparks Circus and Mary was one of the family. Capt. Prescott is an old black man who points out that it is beasts who do the hanging. And finally Mary the elephant makes her entrance and we laugh because vanity is her first concern. She speaks of  memories and life and death. Man's Dominion is powerful storytelling.

Tim Powell is a chameleon. Under the direction of Director John Coppola who built on the original direction by Dennis Neal, Tim is all of the above characters. From accents, to posture, to movement, to voice, to energy, the transitions happen as an organic telling of a story. Tim Powell's performance is absolutely delicious.

Jim Furmston composed and performed the original music from circus theme to Joplin styled rag. His music is an integral part of the story telling. The Studio C Theatre is a perfect and intimate setting for this three ring story. The set design was spot on.

Man's Dominion is not to be missed. If you saw it at the Fringe, see it again. The restraints of time have been removed and you will now have time to digest all the courses of this delectable performance."


A review by Suzanne Birrell.




3.5 (out of 4) STARS

"Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced this year that it was retiring its elephant acts by 2018, following years of protests. If you see Pachyderm Productions' "Man's Dominion," you'll wish it had happened 100 years earlier.

Written by David Castro, directed by Dennis Neal and beautifully performed by Tim Powell, this Los Angeles import tells the story of Mary, an elephant star of the Sparks World Famous Circus, who was hanged in 1916 from a railroad derrick in Erwin, Tenn., after killing her handler. (The title comes from a verse in Genesis justifying "man's dominion" over all other creatures.)

Powell's febrile and supple performance, in which he embodies everyone from circus owner Charlie Sparks to the dead handler to Mary herself (along with half-dozen other onlookers), gives weight and poignancy to all the characters, as he shifts between them with the simplest of props and the adjustment of a button on his black shirt.

And despite the grim subject matter, Castro leavens the script with adroit touches of wit, both human and anthropomorphic. Along the way, it becomes clear that life under the big top took a toll on man and beast alike. "The wonder is they don't kill more of us," says one character in reflecting on Mary's actions. "Man's Dominion" — simple in its physical presentation but complex in characterization and words — is a perfect Fringe Festival find."



“This is what Theatre is about. A thought provoking, mature piece that thoroughly engages an audience from beginning to end...This tour de force performance by Tim Powell does not dazzle us with its theatricality but rather its humanity... This is a piece of bare bones brilliance.”


Molly Hagan, Actor
Longmire, Masters of Sex, iZombie

“Man’s Dominion” is a tour-de-force created out of nothing more than a fake clown nose, a true story and a lot of real talent... Castro, who comes to theater from TV writing, understands how to construct a story that keeps us moving forward while drawing us in.
Tim Powell brings his characters to life with a deft juggling of accents and physicality that allows him the luxury of understated performance. His easy command of the stage lulls us into giving ourselves over to the journey.
And if Powell’s performance is a one-man three-ring circus, director Dennis Neal is the ringmaster, working invisibly but precisely to craft the entire journey. It’s to his credit that the emotional pay-off packs such a powerful punch.” http://thefrontrowcenter.com/2014/06/mans-dominion/


Sarah Tuft, Critic
TheFrontRowCenter.com, NY

"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, most of which makes for persuasive theatre. His characters are made whole by director Neal and actor Powell who clearly relishes his job here."



Dale Reynolds, Critic