It’s not every day that someone from Las Vegas sees a play in Chicago, falls in love with it and brings it to Vegas four months later—not just the publication rights, but the entire cast and crew, and the playwright.
In fact, until now, it was probably never.
But so resonant and broadly reaching—even in its unique specificity—is Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England that five minutes after seeing it at Chicago’s Theater Wit this spring, Todd VonBastiaans and Bryan McCarthy decided to bring the entire production home to share it with the Vegas community.
“We felt that there are things here very relevant to Las Vegas,” VonBastiaans says. “The closing down of a museum, wonderfully written characters we believe Las Vegas audiences have not seen and a millennial character. And three strong women who happen to be lesbians. It's a play that reads to so many different audiences.”
Oddly, while writing Seven Homeless Mammoths, playwright Madeleine George had a moment when she believed “no one will ever do this because it’s too bizarre, too silly.”
That notion, however, went unshared by theater companies, critics and audiences who favored George’s brilliant characterization of a small New England college town lamenting the planned closure of a crusty and rarely visited campus museum.
Given the liberal, educated and esteemed community, the townspeople don’t just lose it when they learn that the forgotten natural history museum will be replaced with student housing. Citizens mouth off in well-scripted letters to the editor, plan protests and discuss with one another the tragedy of the loss.
Then there’s the story of a middle-aged former professor-turned-dean who is dating a 23-year-old yoga instructor and invites her former girlfriend dying of terminal cancer home to live with them. And, of course, the early man characters from the museum’s diorama, reiterating conversations of slack mouthed-students—the only one’s who’ve bothered to enter the museum and mostly to allow for intimacy in courtship.
But basically, George had us at “academic sex comedy.”
The play came together after George, who grew up in Amherst, learned that a museum in her hometown was closing and felt, however briefly, the urge to drive back to protest. While writing the museum story (a sort of love letter to small New England college towns) she considered the greatness of legal gay marriage, but felt a sense of loss over other forms of “queer family making, unregulated by the state” and how much more these families are now marginalized.
All of this, and the hilarity of college politics, makes it into the jargon-heavy Seven Homeless Mammoths, which opens August 14 at Art Square Theatre.
Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England August 14 & 22, 8 p.m.; August 15 & 17, 2 p.m.; August 16, 20, 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; August 21, 7 p.m., $25. Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. First St., toddandbryan.com.