Metamorphoses Beautifully Highlights Theater’s Role in Our Search for Meaning in Life
Yes, there’s a 2,600-gallon pool in the middle of the Arden Theater right now, and, of course, that’s what catches everyone’s attention the minute they walk into Metamorphoses, the divine staging of Mary Zimmerman’s acclaimed work currently running at the playhouse. However, that same pool, which is so shocking at start, ends up becoming a character itself, almost blending in as the gorgeous production starts.
What the Arden’s Metamorphoses does is remind us that theater is art, and that art can be beautiful and savage and fluid, very much like the water in the giant pool. That’s the genius of Zimmerman’s work, which is captured very well in this production.
In essence, the work is a series of vignettes based on the tales of Ovid, and although the myths are classic, and, some might argue, simplistic, that’s sort of the point here: that oral tradition plays an intricate and important part in our own modern questioning of life and how it works.
But beyond the tales is an aesthetic beauty in the staging that is impossible to ignore. There are simple moments that really do send shivers down your spine, like when Aphrodite, played by Krista Apple-Hodge, takes paper cut-outs of the letter “Z” and causally tosses them, one by one, from an elevated platform, symbolizing deep sleep, or the ending vignette, where the cast comes out with floating wooden bowls of tea light candles and place them in the pool. When the stage lights go down, all that is left is the glow of the candles — until the actors slowly extinguish them. It’s haunting.
Of course, there’s the fabulous ensemble cast who all take turns shining throughout the hour-and-a-half show. Particular standout moments include Leigh Kato’s portrayal of Myrrha, a daughter who is cursed to fall in sexual lust with her own father, played with amazing physicality by Lindsay Smiling; Alex Keiper’s doomed Alcyone; and Steve Pacek’s Phaeton, who delivers an entire comedic monologue while on a raft in a swimsuit and sunglasses.
But, in the end, Metamorphoses goes back to the huge body of water and how it symbolizes the inevitable: change. There are several actual metamorphoses in the play — from two lovers transforming into birds and Myrrha melting into a pool of tears to an elderly couple who are morphed into intertwining trees. This piece of theater is a gorgeous testament to the evolution of the human condition and how complex it is to be alive.
‘Metamorphoses’ runs at the Arden Theater through November 1. For tickets and more information, click here.