A quirky comedy about the evolution of relationships, “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England” is a thoughtful study in love and extinction in a northeastern college town. Imaginatively crafted by Madeleine George, whose Off Off Broadway dramedy “The Zero Hour” won good notices last year, the two-act play centers upon a lesbian trio whose uneasy design for living is set against a college’s controversial decision to close its shabby museum of natural history.
The playwright claims to be inspired by screwball comedies, but the only link to that genre exists in the semi-starchy character of Cindy Weems (Mercedes Herrero), a Rosalind Russell-style executive in her 40s who is a stressed-out college dean anxiously dealing with the museum’s dismantling.
Cindy’s disposal of seven dusty mammoth skeletons proves as complicated as rearranging her domestic affairs to harbor Greer (Deirdre Madigan), a former lover now battling stage four cancer. Awkward incidents involving noisy sex and similar intimate matters ensue between the tart-tongued Greer and Cindy’s new girlfriend, Andromeda (Flor De Liz Perez), a twentysomething free spirit with a New Age bent, an appreciation of “alternate kinship structures” and a passion for “Friends” reruns.
Those mammoths and their museum are used by George to elevate the story into a universal realm by introducing ideas about the natural cycles of life, death and ceaseless change. Folksy accounts of town meetings and local doings offered by the museum’s custodian (Joel Van Liew) provide background of a spiritual kind. The institution’s corny dioramas of prehistoric people intermittently give droll voice to the lusty thoughts of the students idly viewing them.
Premiering at Two River Theater Company’s expansive second stage, the surprisingly touching play is neatly directed by Ken Rus Schmoll with capable actors and a handsome triptych setting from Arnulfo Maldonado. While its subtle humor is likely to elude customers seeking belly laughs, “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England” is nonetheless an appealing consideration of mortal issues.