note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey
It all seemed so simple back when the whales needed saving. Preserving the tortoise population on the Galapagos Islands turns out to be a little more complicated. At least it is in Michael Hollinger’s eco-play, TOOTH AND CLAW, which is getting a lively production this month at Zeitgeist Stage. Hollinger manages to present every side of the issue, not just pro and con. Old George, a giant turtle on the endangered species list, feeds on sea cucumbers. But so do Japanese gourmands ---and the fishermen who have been eeking out a living chasing after minnows can now earn a living wage harvesting the valuable cucmbers for the Asian market. No, there are not enough cukes for both.
Hollinger weaves a bittersweet coming of age story into the political wranglings and with a chorus of “El Condor Pasa” and a chant of “The people united, shall never be defeated,” we’re whisked back to the heyday of social protest. If Cesar Chavez were alive today, it’s likely he’d turn his attention from grapes to cucumbers.
Director David Miller has a way with a sweeping story: keeping it grounded and keeping it fresh---and his gorgeous ocean floor and turtle rock igloos are the perfect setting for the battle of man vs. animal. The animals of concern to the biologists are the turtles. The humans who will suffer are the impoverished fisherman who will lose their chance to improve their lot. The clever playwright throws one more population into the mix: Sixty thousand goats who threaten the food chain. This animal rights winger can tell you it got her goat that the environmentalists in the play were ready to shoot the mamas, papas and kids without batting an eye. As you can see, TOOTH AND CLAW is plenty thought provoking.
Nydia Colon gives a finely nuanced performance as the street smart secretary on the goats’ side. On the tortoise side is Lisa Morse as the plucky scientist who has come to Galapagos to find herself, even if she doesn’t know it. Ed Peed is charming as the wise old hoot owl who watches over Morse. Luis Negron gives moral weight to the character of the assistant director and Juan Luis Acevedo gives the maintenance/grounds keeper a wry sense of humor. Diego Estevam Ribeiro gives the rabble rouser a sinister edge and Alajandro Simoes, Amar Srivastava, Christopher Barnard and Xavier Torres play several roles (fisherman, chorus, tourists) to maximum effect. Zeitgeist seems to find surprising, gritty scripts every year. It’s always a pleasure to see what new play they’ve come up with. The one thing you won’t be is bored.