The Ice Mastodon Cometh: “The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons”

Maraj and Neal Photo by Johanna Bobrow.

Presented by Theatre@First
by Rachel Teagle
Directed by Jess Viator

March 15–23, 2024
Unity Somerville
6 William Street
Somerville, MA 02144

Please note: Unity Somerville is not wheelchair accessible. There are stairs leading down to the performance space.  

Digital Playbill

Content note: Please be advised this show contains implied explosions, described violence, allusions to domestic violence, discussions of terminal illness, and homophobic and racially insensitive microaggressions.

Review by Kitty Drexel

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Theatre@First’s plucky production of Rachel Teagle’s The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons is lots of fun! It runs at Unity Somerville church through March 23.  

Jess’s (Angele Maraj) life is chugging along – could be better, could be worse – when, one day, the world’s population wakes to discover their childhood dreams have come true! Jess awakes as a mastodon (never to be confused with a mammoth), tusks, and all because Buster (Juan Jose Boschetti) wished everyone’s wishes would come true. 

Most everyone has quit their day job to become a ballerina, cowboy, or astronaut: Jess’s boyfriend Clarence (Patrick Neal) is now Clint, an international spy, who must seduce Inga (Vivian Greenberg killing it in a vampy red dress) as part of his new gig; Tracy (Natalie Le) is a TV news anchor to veteran anchor Pat’s (Alex Gorowara) chagrin. 

Jess undertakes a journey of epic proportions as she carves a place for herself in this new world of dreams and unmet expectations. It’s when Jess meets with career counselor Dolores (Catherine Bromberg) to forge a new path when Jess realizes the world isn’t made for mastodons. Jess remakes the world in her image instead.

Becki Greene, Byron Harvey, Lauren Kimball, Audrey Seraphin, Lily Danieri, and Kathy-Ann Cadogan are the ensemble’s players. The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons examines themes of loneliness, otherness, and power dynamics with untamed creativity.    

A church basement is the perfect setting for this play. Teagle presents expositional information as exhibitions on the stage. Jess’s interest in mastodons started as a grade school science project. The cast delightfully reenacts for us what that looked like for Jess. A brief history of the American mastodon is performed for the audience like a school or church pageant. We meet a confident Thomas Jefferson who would prove America’s greatness to the French with a mastodon jawbone. It’s a silly pageant to reflect a silly albeit vital part of North America’s history.  

The ensemble; Photo by Johanna Bobrow.

Don’t let the church basement setting fool you. This production is thoughtful and fun from its tightly structured scene changes and creature costumes to its inventive sound and prop design elements. We see mastodon bones and hear American spy lasers while suspending our disbelief in children who dream of becoming professional arsonists.

Angele Maraj makes a sympathetic and resilient Jess. She maintains the show’s positive energy while wearing an unruly mastodon headdress and resisting an unsupportive boyfriend. Her physical acting and her character development shine through her bulky costume. 

Maraj and the ensemble work well together to create and solidify the play’s world. The ensemble’s work as a trusting, joyful troupe enabled the audience to have as much fun as they wanted to have.  

The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons looks at the multitude of ways life/the universe/Powers That Be/other humans steamroll over the wondrous peculiarities of the individual to cater to a homogeneous ideal human population that doesn’t and can’t exist. If you want to be a mastodon, a balloon, or a dragon. Go ahead. Life is too short to put off being who you are. 

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