Review by Danny Gaisin
“The Midas touch”; A Bacchanal ; In the arms of Morpheus’; Oedipus complex; Narcissistic; and all the variation of “Psycho… These, and many more are phrases derived from the names or acts of Ovid’s 15-AD poems describing the Greek mythologies popular two millennia ago. American director/ playwright Mary Zimmerman re-wrote episodal aspects of the original epic into visual, musical, and dramatic narratives that interpret some of the more familiar subjects. Theatre Erindale’s staging of Metamorphoses is predominantly her imagery, and director David Matheson’s creativity, and the result is magical as well as informative. Photo courtesy of Michael Slater
Presented around a large filled oval pool, all of the cast endure submerging and performing at or below the surface with entry & egress important moments of accentuated portrayals.
The title’s definition is change or evolution and the play opens with a Darwinian variation of Genesis. Three ‘laundresses’ narrate the inaugural premise and then recount and inform the audience as each segment segues along. Marissa Orjalo, Karen Scora & Aria Sharma are pivotal in maintaining the continuity of the performances but must act, sing, dance and swim in each scene. The cast, and roles portrayed make individual commentaries almost impossible but one can certainly state that there are no weak or underplayed role interpretations. However, we could not help but notice the contributions of Gillian Clare, Yona Epstein-Roth, Alexia Vessos & Liam Galway.
The overall impact of ‘Metamorphoses’ is the result of Matheson’s attention to detail and those subtleties inherent in Ovid’s tales. Almost all of his characters ‘morph’ in varying degrees and his cast all demonstrate manifestations of it. Some changes are harsh, others telegraphed and some are elusive but all are eponymous definitions. Much of the directorial substance relies on clever costuming but it is the posturing, expressions and timing of the cast members that ultimately account for the affect that the portrayals will have on the audience. Given the thrust-stage arrangement; the proximity of the audience to the pool; and the occasional splash adds an unusual dimension to viewers.
There are moments of humour including contemporary phrases or scatology; scenes of eroticism and even alternative lifestyles that are regarded or considered. Sound and lighting are both critical aspects of the staging The costuming is incredible but it is the occasional details in some that will kindle mental curiosity (soiled white suits!). Undoubtedly there is a rationale for these but they escaped this humble scribe. Still, even these oddities gleaned focus and attention. The intricate demands of stage management are handled by Barbara McLean Wright and she has her cast’s exit/entries flow swimmingly (pun intended).
We could not help but notice the rapt cognition and fascinated faces of those seated nearby. Even without a knowledge of mythology, the stories are explanatory and the acting is certainly of professional calibre. METAMORPHOSES is at Theatre Erindale (UTM campus) until Nov. 10th.