The Stories of Metamorphosing: A Review on Metamorphoses

The logo and program cover of LHS's spring play,

Photo courtesy of Google Images

The logo and program cover of LHS's spring play, "Metamorphoses."

Maria Thames, Staff Writer

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After premiering at Northwestern University in 1996, and being performed at The Lookingglass Theater Company in later years, Second Stage Theater in 2001 as an off-broadway show, and Broadway in 2002, LHS brought Mary Zimmerman’s play “Metamorphoses” to the studio theater on May 1-2.

With a sold-out show and a jampacked studio theatre, the sound of a struck gong and luminescent cascade of what seems to be a shadow of waves on the wall introduces the first scene. Focused on the symbolism of water, almost all of this play is conducted in a large pool, which would make you think transitions and costumes changes were difficult, but shifting from scene to scene was done almost flawlessly.

The pool, exactly 3.5 feet deep with black lining, makes the water appear dark blue and is the most substantial prop in the show. Lighting from the ceiling above made the water reflect the mood of the scene, and the characters moved through the water when there was a significant point being made or when a transformation, literal or emotional, occurred.

In addition to the importance of water, the play  also stresses the weak points that all humans share.

The first scene, as well as the entire show, is crowd-pleasing and quite entertaining. It focuses in on the life King Midas, played by senior David Black (a Drops of Ink staff member),  a very wealthy man who is granted a wish to have everything he touches become gold, and as J.R.R. Tolkien said in his novel, The Fellowship of the Ring, “All that is gold does not glitter.” This proves to be true when Midas turns his beloved daughter (and by beloved, I mean that his love is but a mere lie; he talks as if family means everything to him, but greed is what he feeds off of) into gold. After scene one, the play kicks off into  a series of nine more scenes, each a different story, but all performed in the same pool, tying back into a central themes of love, good and evil, and transformation caused by experience. All of the scenes are tied to and relate to Greek mythology in one sense or another.

There are the stories of two lovers, Alcyone and Ceyx, being possessed and in need of food; Erysichthon and Heres, losing a partner; Orpheus and Eurydice; then there was a short intermission. After resuming, the stories of  Narcissus and his intrigue upon seeing his own face (name doesn’t sound very coincidental, does it?); a cat-and-mouse game of love between Pomona and Vertumnus, and Myrrha fights her lustful urges towards her own father after being cursed.

The most crowd pleasing scene included Phaeton and his bubbly personality when he’s talking to a therapist about his father’s absence when he was a young child. Phaeton is played by junior Anthony Milunas and the therapist is played by junior Jackie Ovassapian. Milunas is depicted as a stereotypical patient that lays in one of those stretched out couches that therapists are known for having, but instead, he is floating on his over-sized orange tube in the pool with an orange swimsuit  and bright white sunglasses to complete the look. Milunas describes how he was bullied when he was at school, so he goes to find his father the sun god, Apollo, out of pity and guilt due to neglecting his son, allowing him to drive across the sun. Milunas ends up destroying the world and so casually complains that it was awful for him, making this scene hilarious for the audience, displaying a satirical explanation of a relationship shared between parents and their children.

After that, the second-to-last scene tells the story of Eros and Psyche and their forbidden love.

In the last scene, taking place in a city of bad Samaritans, Zeus and Hermes (disguised as beggars) knock from door to door pleading for a place to stay, and they are turned down until they come across the shack belonging to Baucis and Philemon. The couple takes them in, calling them “children of God,” and cooks them a feast, unaware of who they are. Once their true identities are revealed, Baucis and Philemon are granted one wish; they want to be able to die in the same moment. Their house is transformed into a beautiful palace where they become two intertwined trees, Midas (from scene one) reappears, is reunited with his daughter, and embraces her — showing the crowd he is no longer greedy and that he truly loves his daughter.

The actors did a fantastic job of making the water seem evil, life-giving, and as if it causes transformations to occur as Pomona and Vertumnus, sophomore Anna Denoia and junior Joe Sullivan, respectively, fall in love along the water. Zeus and Hermes, freshman Jack Miller and senior John Lester, are lead into the water for shelter provided by Baucis and Philemon, Denoia and sophomore Zach Pearson.

In relation to human nature, the actors and plot line  portray it in a way that makes it seem natural and easy for the audience to understand. While much of the play relates to Greek mythology, it is shown through everyday people, making the basis of scenarios somewhat relatable to the audience. There is good and evil in each and every one of us. We all strive to improve upon who we are, to find love, and hopefully try to do what is right — all of which are ideas that can be found in “Metamorphoses.”

All in all, “Metamorphoses” is a unique play in the sense that most of it is acted in water, and there are many stories within one performance, yet they all circle back to one another. It has humor for children and adults alike, and never ceases to entertain the audience, even in the most serious of scenes.

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