Think the Greek myths are dry and dull? Try seeing them brought to life in a glistening pool of water, set into the stage just yards from your feet. Mary Zimmerman’s play Metamorphoses does just that, transforming old into new while retaining all of the humor, pathos, and truths of Ovid’s original stories, originally crafted over two thousand years ago.
Ovid’s stories themselves explore transformation in many guises and of many natures: that the gods decree Midas’s touch to transform all into gold; or that they likewise are themselves transformed from their self-images into something less impressive. This latter alteration is hilariously depicted in the now-famous scene of a teenage celebrity Phaeton describing his joy-ride in Dad’s chariot to his therapist. Each quick scene—the play explores roughly a dozen of Ovid’s stories in all—calls up another approach and another metamorphoses to consider. By updating the tales to modern days, certain aspects of the gods’ roles shift in unexpected and often amusing ways: Hermes, the messenger of the gods, changes from fleet-footed, winged-helmeted youth into a bike messenger, and Midas becomes the ultimate corporate businessman.
Other mortals and gods you’ll discover within the play include the tragic lovers Orpheus and Euridice (in two different approaches, one of them drawn from Rainer Maria Rilke); the desperately hungry Erysichthon; the incestuous Cinyras and his daughter Myrrha, punished by Aphrodite for failing to select a suitor; and happy couple Eros and Psyche.
Perfectly suited for Playhouse in the Park’s proscenium thrust stage, which will put the audience just feet from the water-filled pool central to the play’s set, Metamorphoses is a captivating enchantment, full of quirky imagery and creativity. The pool itself fills many roles: Californian swimming pool, limpid pond, raging sea, luxurious bed. (Those seated ion the front row be warned: you may be a little damp by the end of the evening.) A small cast in which each actor takes on several roles adds to the atmosphere of change on the stage, and helps create an intimate feeling even in a larger theatre.
Metamorphoses runs about ninety minutes and does contain nudity, mild adult language and sexual references, though student matinee performances will alter one scene that contains full male nudity. This play has been performed across the country to the highest acclaim and is ideal for adults and mature teens.