OGDEN — The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons, by Rachel Teagle, is a play based on fantasy where all the characters can suddenly live their childhood dreams, which works well for most people but not so much for Jess, played Natalie Lichfield, who dreamed of being a Mastodon when she grew up.
Directed by Jenny Kokai, Mastodon made its debut onto the theatre stage just a few months ago in Florida and is now gracing the stages at Weber State University. When I first arrived with my daughter, I was taken by the set and the ambience of the stage, which felt like walking into the ice age where a Mastodon would live. This scenic design, by Jo Winiarski, was complimented by well-placed projections throughout the show designed by Jacob Watts and by the lighting designed by Marley Keith. Because this show goes down the path of imagination, it was really important in my opinion to get these elements right. The most important element of this show was the costume design by Edward Snow, who I assume designed the magical Mastodon. I really appreciated that he made the creature slightly magical while still keeping the traditional shape, and the puppeteers, Jacob Coates, Nora Waldrop, and Jessica Smith-Deboer, should absolutely be commended for bringing such a creature to life. There is a scene that incorporates a dance, and choreographer Tara Lemons made quite the moment with that experience.
Besides the role of Jess, the rest of the cast played many roles and are just credited as chorus members. Players Lily Hilden, Robert Moschetti III, Chloe Ryan Painter, Madison Grissom, and Nikolas Justice put together a beautifully designed and quite thought provoking production in a 90-minute space of time.
One of the main points of the show was that if we all truly followed our dreams and ignored the difficult parts of our dreams, the actual work that needs to get done can be left in the shadows, and therefore the reality of dreams becomes less than what is hoped. One of the aspects of this story that is evidence of this theme is how there were suddenly many ballerinas and princesses and spies, but no one was doing the paperwork or the necessary behind the scenes work, because as a child, we don’t dream of the difficult work that keeps the world running.
Much of the show was slightly abstract, and I had an audience member next to me really struggling with this concept. It occurred to me that this was slightly sad, because my 15-year-old daughter was quick to suspend reality and embrace what would happen if we suddenly woke up and had our childhood wishes come true. It takes a bit to explain why this event has happened, and even more time to explain the motives of some of the characters, but the writing by Teagle and direction of Kokai all led the way to a good look at what might happen if all of our dreams came true without planning for the difficult and challenging parts of life.
Additionally, I was impressed by the thought process that went into the different dreams that people might have and how that might play out in adulthood. One of the characters, without giving away too much, simply dreamed of being “in charge,” and the way that shows up within the plot is quite interesting and telling when it plays out within the context of the show.
This show has an interesting level of story, because part of it plays as a children’s show while there is also a level of storytelling that is so deep that it feels far more than children’s theatre. It felt like there was a lot to unpack, and I am not sure that I caught all of the meaning, but meaning is the mark of good theatre. It was visually appealing and well thought through, leaving me wishing to see it again. My 15-year-old daughter said she really enjoyed it and wished that we had brought her 11-year-old sister to enjoy it as well. It does require some suspension of belief and allowing acceptance of expectations of reality to be different than what is expected.
The show runs 90 minutes without an intermission and is general admission seating. The night I attended was already sold out, so if you want tickets, I encourage you to look into it right away.