Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
After debuting in Chicago in 1998, Metamorphoses was produced in Berkeley back at the turn of the millennium and eventually made its way to New York's Second Stage Theatre 2001, where I first encountered it before it moved on to a successful run on Broadway the following year, and later to productions in many other cities. What I found striking about the play back in 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11when coming together to share stories of mystery and wonder represented a sort of healingis the same thing I found striking about this new production. Though the stories are ancient, many of them have tremendous resonance with challenges and terrors we face today. It's impossible not to witness the tale of Erysichthon, who is cursed by Ceres with an insatiable hunger, and not be reminded of the horrors of addiction. As written by Zimmerman, King Midas is not unlike any number of today's billionairesnever satisfied, always seeking more and more wealth without a moment's thought to the downfalls of greed or the needs of others. When we hear Midas describe himself as "a self-made man," and then witness his self-mythologizing, clearly making up stories as he goes along about his brilliance and wisdom, it puts one in mind of another man with a gold obsession (including his hair and skin) and a penchant for mendacious self-aggrandizement. And anyone who has ever felt an unwanted or culturally taboo sexual desire may relate to Myrrha (cursed with a lust for her own father) when she cries "Oh gods, I pray youchange me!"
It is this mix of ancient and contemporaryboth in language and thematic resonancethat makes Metamorphoses so engaging and powerful. The production is also a mix of classic and contemporaryfrom the bold set design (by Daniel Ostling) that is part modern and part rococo, to the costumes that mix styles of ancient Greece, Edwardian splendor, and modern elegance with a dash of theatrical flair thrown in.
The cast throw themselves with abandon into their roles. Steven Epp's Erysichthon exhibits hunger as a violent, unquenchable desire that is both hysterical and tragic. Likewise, Louise Lamson's portrayal of Alcyone, whose husband is lost at sea, is heartrending.
"The gods are not altogether unkind," one character intones, reminding us that even among the mostly tragic consequences of humanity's hubris and the gods' interference, there are still moments of loveliness and redemptionas when we come together in an ad hoc assembly in the darkness of a theater to share the comfort of stories.
Metamorphoses, through March 10, 2019, in the Peet's Theatre at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley CA. Shows are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Sunday at 7:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Additional matinees have been scheduled Thursday, February 7 and Thursday, March 7 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $40-$115, with discounts available for students, seniors, and groups. Tickets are available online at www.berkeleyrep.org, or by calling the box office at 510-647-2949.