Chicago Actors Ensemble.

When their woodland home is threatened by plans to turn it into a reservoir for a nearby city, the indigenous fauna band together to protest. But negotiations with the androcentric Big Shot prove futile, even though his own son argues against the destruction of the animals’ habitat. A violent confrontation breaks out, during which one of the animal leaders is killed, focusing international attention on the incident.

The propaganda in Vikram Seth’s fable is obvious, but at no time does the intelligent, inventive adaptation presented by the Chicago Actors Ensemble, under the direction of Morgan McCabe, become preachy or patronizing. The talented cast transform Seth’s rhymed text into a natural vernacular and find an array of expressions in each animal’s voice. The Elephant is rendered wise, phlegmatic, and astonishingly graceful by the two actors who play him, Michael Agnew and Jennifer Savarirayan, while the “good-natured pheasant” Tragopan is given the fiery impatience of a born crusader by Lila Michael.

In conjunction with this production, which inaugurates the Family Matinee Series, CAE is offering exhibits and workshops dealing with environmental issues. But whatever one’s political stance, The Elephant and the Tragopan is sure to entertain as well as educate.