Theater for Elephants 

Trailing Colors: an Artistic Response to the Rwandan Genocide

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The Other Shoe Productions' Trailing Colors, written and directed by Gretchen Icenogle, is about the genocide in Rwanda. And while its particulars are very rooted in that conflict, the show also functions as a broader question and answer. The question it poses is a familiar one: How can Americans be persuaded to care about events that don't directly concern them—and by extension, how can humans best connect with each other across distance of any kind?

The answer: Stories and the many ways they're delivered, some of which we call "art," can provide a means of imagining places we've never been, empathizing with people we've never met. But while Trailing Colors makes this point both thematically and in its very existence as a production, it is less successful in fulfilling that promise. That is to say: Trailing Colors is correct about the power of storytelling; it is not, in itself, a powerful story.

A doctor (Keyon Gaskin) goes to Africa to help Rwandan refugees, and finds himself changed by the experience. While there, he has an affair with an Italian woman with a ridiculous accent (Kate Mura). Meanwhile, at home, his girlfriend (Jenny Finke) is banging a zookeeper (JR Wickman), at least until she decides to go to Rwanda herself and interview a genocide survivor (Shoshana Maxwell) firsthand.

As the previous paragraph might suggest, the show suffers from an excess of plot: There are too many relationships, and not enough opportunity for the characters that drive them to emerge. The script's first act begs to be streamlined, and at least one character could be cut altogether. And while elephants are clearly a central metaphor—metaphants?—the zookeeper's fretting about baby pachyderms only further clutters the plot.

The show is over-ambitious; the flawed script can't keep track of the many things it's trying to say. But if Trailing Colors' biggest problem is that it tries to do too much, that's much easier to forgive than a show that tries to do too little.

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