BWW Reviews: METAMORPHOSES Transforms the New Vic
Metamorphoses is less of a play than it is a dreamlike series of theatrical vignettes adapted from the mythology canon of Ovid's epic poem of the same name. Though the segments are connected by little more than the thematic act of transformation, the fluid physicality of Ensembles' production creates a motif of movement that links each piece together seamlessly. Much of the intense emotionality is portrayed through an impressive litany of dance-based movement (choreographed by Michael Jenkinson) rather than traditional action, which cements the surreal quality of the performance.
The technical design of the show was particularly impressive. Lighting and scenic designer Francois-Pierre Couture has created an otherworldly environment of multiple stage levels and bold colors to house these myths. Established entirely around the idea of change, it's not surprising that the stage action, too, is based in a pool that serves as the centerpiece of the set. This wading pool functions both literally, as a swimming pool or laundry basin, and as a representative feature meant to imply vaster bodies of water like rivers and oceans. Water has always been recognized as an archetype of resurrection, and Fox makes good use of the pool in the playing space, incorporating it in its many perceived forms into each vignette to convey the process of transformation: death, baptism, rebirth.
The lack of an overarching narrative voice to draw discernable parallels between the myths on a level deeper than their common aspect of transformation leaves room for interpretation as to why playwright Mary Zimmerman chose these particular myths amongst the many from Ovid's work. Zimmerman seems to be calling her inspiration from not only the subject of Ovid's plays, but his writing style, as well. The epic poem flows from one transformation to the next, often in a meandering, illogical fashion. Ensemble, too, has adopted the importance of style over the demands of the structures of modern storytelling, and eschews the need for subtext lurking in the connective tissue between stories. Metamorphoses draws on a number of stylistic techniques to relay the stories, utilizing tropes both modern and based in antiquity. King Midas is depicted as an avaricious investment banker who desires a literal ability analogous to his self-described skill to figuratively turn everything he touches to gold; Phaeton, Apollo's son, explains his relationship with his father via a conversation with his textbook-quoting therapist, all while floating in a swimming pool-a stagnating youth bobbing in the even more stagnant water of a metamorphosis in-waiting.
Ensemble delivers a well paced, even production that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The style is fluid, pretty-never dirty and uncontrolled, even in moments of extreme anguish. Overall, it is a quietly entertaining show with outstanding, intricate choreography and technical design that changes the stage from the interior of a theater to an oracle of stylized storytelling: a metamorphosis of its own.
Running through April 13th, 2014
Santa Barbara, CA