Surrounding a 15-ton pool on stage, PlayMakers Repertory Company masterfully combined ancient with modern, land with sea and human with spirit in its Friday opening of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.”
The play comprises a string of myths, which touch on the themes of love, redemption and responsibility, and feature key characters like King Midas, Aphrodite, Cupid and Bacchus.
Location: Paul Green Theatre, Friday, November 8
The 12-member cast was able to easily embody the play’s numerous characters, but what was most impressive was the performers’ abilities to embody the non-human characters of the play.
In the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx, cast members acting as Poseidon’s wind gracefully yet ominously swept shipmen into the water during the Ceyx’s shipwreck. The myth of Erysichthon and Ceres also featured a non-human character in the form of hunger, played by Caroline Strange. Gaunt and ragged, Strange crawled and clung like a parasite to Erysichthon as an insatiable appetite.
Erysichthon, played by Nilan Johnson, used the pool of water as the food with which he attempted to gorge himself — one of the many moments where the pool was incorporated into the plot of the play without being too distracting or overpowering.
The actors, whether drowning in the water or floating on it, practiced controlled movements through the pool, which reduced any unnecessary splashing or noise that would have detracted from the intricate plot.
Working seamlessly with the water in every scene, the cast used props such as a large white sheet to cover actors in the water, creating the eerie River Styx. The movement through the “river” rendered the actors both beautifully and disturbingly ghostlike.
The rhythm of the water and the various choreographed movements of the actors were supplemented by the live music by “Lost in the Trees” members Emma Nadeau and Ari Picker, who produced unique sounds for Midas’ golden touch as well as the water movements.
Picker appeared on stage playing the Spanish guitar during the myth of Apollo and Phaeton. Phaeton, played by Nathaniel P. Claridad, was depicted as a sunglass-donning spoiled teenager lounging in his pool.
Claridad’s roles as Phaeton and a drunken member of Bacchus’ party crowd were some of the many humorous interludes in the play’s often serious mythological vignettes and examples of the play’s incorporation of mythology into a contemporary context.
Phaeton’s demand to drive his father Apollo’s car, as well as the cellphone-carrying King Midas, “who had a net worth of $1 billion,” shed new light on these old stories and produced many a laugh from the audience.
The actors’ command of the play’s water and the roles of the characters in it proved that co-director Joseph Haj’s risky vision to use a pool was well worth the wait and the effort, as it culminated in a thought-provoking and highly entertaining production.
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