Metamorphoses written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Based on a translation by David Slavitt of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Set design by Daniel Ostling. Costume design by Mara Blumenfeld. Lighting dseign by T.J. Gerckens. Sound design by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman. Music composed by Willy Schwarz. Cast: Anjali Bhimani, Raymond Fox, Kyle Hall, Doug Hara, Felicity Jones, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Erik Lochtefeld, Mariann Mayberry, Lisa Tejero.
What is it about Metamorphoses that allows it to continue to move, inspire, and entertain so many months after it first opened Off-Broadway?
Perhaps it's the simplicity of the entire experience? Or the primal, basic feelings it touches upon and explores? Or maybe it's simply the stories of Ovid, thousands of years old, that still matter today? Whatever it is, the magic that the show possessed at the Second Stage Theatre this fall is still present now that the show has moved to Broadway, where it will hopefully remain ensconced in the Circle in the Square for a long time to come.
That the show works on as many levels as it does can be attributed to author and director Mary Zimmerman. Despite starting at the Looking Glass Theatre in Chicago and playing a number of other cities before hitting New York, her script, which infuses Ovid's tales with a frequently modern, often funny, and always entertaining sensibility, hasn't lost any of its charm, and her direction has helped make sure the cast and the staging have stayed fresh.
In doing so, Zimmerman has made only a few minor changes in the show's presentation, mostly to take advantage of the opportunities the new space represents. While the proscenium Second Stage Theatre tended to slightly detach you from the action, at Circle in the Square, you can't help but be a part of it. The pool of water that is featured so prominently is surrounded on three sides by the audience, with those in the closest rows only a few feet away. This much greater awareness of the audience only adds to the vital experience of communal storytelling that makes Metamorphoses so captivating.
Most scenes play better and more personally in the new space, with the action and the emotion harder to escape. The scenes involving the door and elevated platform areas furthest away from the audience don't translate as well from the proscenium theatre; Daniel Ostling's set, which otherwise is fine, could have been adapted better to suit the needs of the Circle in the Square.
But that's a minor complaint, really, as its impact on the rest of the production is minimal. The play is full of wonderful moments that still come across brilliantly: Midas (Raymond Fox) and his golden walk around the pool, the counseling session Phaeton (Doug Hara, still hilarious in this scene) has with his overanalyzing therapist (Lisa Tejero) discussing his father the Sun, the two different takes on the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice (Erik Lochtefeld and Mariann Mayberry), and many more.
The entire cast - rounded out by Anjali Bhimani, Kyle Hall, Felicity Jones, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson - remains sharp, funny, and sexy, the costumes by Mara Blumenfeld an excellent complement to the already striking (though never overwhelming) physical production.
Metamorphoses remains powerful, moving, and funny, right up to its final touching moments. The stories in Metamorphoses might be mostly about change, but thank goodness the play itself has hardly changed at all.