Sarah Rose Nottingham, Cassandra Leon,
and Emma Wilkinson in Fantastic.Z's
Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England.
Photo credit: Alex Garland

When any playwright sits down to their notepad/typewriter/computer I would hope they have pinned to their workspace a note which, in very large, bold letters reads, "Is this germane to the story I'm trying to tell or is it only interesting/funny to me?" Without that question we get plays like "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" currently being offered from Fantastic.Z. There's a little gem of a play in there buried deep amongst the superfluous detritus surrounding it.

You see, in Madeline George's play we're focused on Cindy, Greer and Andromeda (Sarah Rose Nottingham, Emma Wilkinson, and Cassandra Leon). Cindy and Greer used to be together for quite some time but no longer. Cindy is now with the much younger Andromeda, a very spiritual yoga instructor, very different from Greer, the no nonsense Philosophy professor. But Greer has cancer and so Cindy has invited her to come live with them while she undergoes another round of treatment so she's not alone. To make things more complicated, Cindy, as Dean of the local college is also dealing with the potential closing of an obsolete natural history museum in favor of turning it into dorms, but the town is up in arms based on its "importance" especially for the seven woolly mammoth carcasses that reside in the museum.

Those two storylines on their own are fine but George in telling the museum storyline has introduced three other characters. First, we have two early man diorama figures, a man and a woman (Matthew Sythandone and Monica Domena) who pose as they relay the encounters of the random people who stop to stare at them before they have sex in the museum. And second there's the caretaker of the museum (Steven Myers) who mainly recites to us letters to the editor from town residents who want to keep the museum open and in one horrifying scene, endlessly recited the contents of a small-town newsletter complete with wedding announcements and bake sale notices ... for no reason. Now I can get behind the diorama people as they fit in with the story of the main characters (eventually) and were quite funny and not totally intrusive, and a few letters to the editor are ok to show the small-town mindset but let's just get back to the story, shall we?!

The cast does an admirable job with the piece and director Lia Sima Fakhouri does a fine job keeping the pace going, although those scene changes could be tightened up. Nottingham is delightful as the woman caught between her two lovers as well as stuck in this ridiculous issue with the mammoths. Leon is a powerhouse of energy as she barrels through each scene with a wonderful spirit. Wilkinson has the biggest arc in the play and handles it beautifully as she goes through her illness as well as her own issues with her ex. Myers is amusing as the caretaker but has the unenviable task of all those monologues and unfortunately stumbled through many of them making them more awkward. And Sythandone and Domena are hilarious as their various personas making their departure from the story not as unwelcome.

There are definitely some lovely and funny moments in this piece but they're drowning in a sea of extraneous scenes that I'm sure the author thought were funny to her. Too bad she didn't keep us more in mind when editing. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Fantastic.Z's production of "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" a long winded MEH+. There's the anecdote of Michelangelo saying he just kept chipping away at the marble until he took away everything that wasn't the David. Ms. George should have kept chipping.

"Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" from Fantastic.Z performs at the Ballard Underground through October 13th. For tickets or information visit them online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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