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Richmond Triangle Players’ “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England” is smart and entertaining 

click to enlarge The actresses do great work together: Annie Zanetti as Dean Wreen, Shaneeka Harrell as Greer and Meg Carnahan as Andromeda in Richmond Triangle Players’ “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England."

John MacLellan

The actresses do great work together: Annie Zanetti as Dean Wreen, Shaneeka Harrell as Greer and Meg Carnahan as Andromeda in Richmond Triangle Players’ “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England."

Madeleine George's "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England," currently running at Richmond Triangle Players, is a charming comedy concerned with sex, love, anthropology, evolution, alternative kinship structures and a small, unimportant natural history museum.

The Pratt Museum is historically inaccurate and scientifically irrelevant, mostly used as a hook-up spot by students — and faculty — at the university that houses it. When the university decides to close its doors, the entire town erupts in protest over the uncertain fate of the museum's seven wooly mammoth skeletons. As Dean Cindy Wreen works to manage the situation, her home life erupts when Greer, her ex-girlfriend, moves back into their home in the wake of her diagnosis with cancer. The dean's young new girlfriend, Andromeda, only complicates matters further.

Director Lucian Restivo has done a lovely job bringing this script off the page. This production is funny and touching without ever feeling too heavy. Restivo's deft pacing keeps the show from dragging while leaving space for the softer moments to breathe.

The casting is perfect. Annie Zanetti's Dean Wreen is frenetic, expressive and endearingly human, while Shaneeka Harrell gives a subtler, more subdued performance as Greer. Meg Carnahan's Andromeda is bubbly and annoyingly astute. These three actresses are all excellent, and they play off one another quite well. The relationships and onstage chemistry feel real and lived-in.

Maura Mazurowski and Ray Wrightstone are hilarious as a pair of outdated representations of early man in a diorama at the museum. They spend their days watching and reflecting the conversations of the modern-day students who visit the museum. Placing the carnal preoccupations of college students into the mouths of these Flintstone-like characters highlights and comments on the primal nature of our human urge to form social — and sexual — bonds. The diorama scenes are some of my favorite, and Mazurowski and Wrightstone are a great comedic duo.

I do think Restivo could have made better use of David Clark as the Caretaker. His scenes reading the newspaper articles about the seven-mammoth debacle could be more dynamic. He is at his best during his monologue about composting, without a newspaper obscuring his performance.

Chris Raintree's scenic design is smart, making great use of multiple levels to delineate different spaces, aided by Michael Jarrett's lighting design. Sheila Russ' costume design serves the production well, as do Luke Newsome's wig and makeup designs. I especially enjoyed his ridiculous wigs for the diorama scenes. Lucian Restivo's sound design worked, though I sometimes find his musical choices distracting. Chelsea Pace, the production's intimacy choreographer, did an amazing job creating realistic and passionate onstage moments.

Richmond Triangle Players' "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" is smart and entertaining. It's a cute, quirky play, but it isn't simple or easy. The vignettes with the Caretaker and the diorama aren't explained. They're merely presented for the audience to consider in conjunction with the primary narrative. Woven together, these scenes explore what it means to be human, the kinds of bonds humans form with one another, and how those bonds can bend and stretch and change yet remain intact.

Richmond Triangle Players' "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" runs until May 4 at the Robert B. Moss Theatre. Tickets cost $10 - $30. rtriangle.org.

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