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York, Circle in the Square Theatre
Doug Hara, Eric Lochtefeld
In Book XV of his Metamorphoses,
Ovid predicts, "I shall be read, and through all the centuries
I shall be
living, always." Mary Zimmerman, in the adaptation of his myths that she wrote and
directed, makes Ovid's prediction come true in delightful, enthralling, enchanting,
humorous, moving, magical theatrical glory. It's that good.
The magic begins with the set designed by Daniel Ostling. The stage is
filled with a large rectangular pool with a walkway around it. There is a large door that
suggests the entrance to a palace, a platform high above the stage for assorted gods, and
a patch of sky that changes colors in the twinkling of an eye. But most of the action
takes around and in the pool. Especially in the pool. Although it is only a few inches
deep, the actors sometimes create the illusion that it is as deep as the sea. Characters
melt into this pool, galleons are destroyed by storms in this pool.
Zimmerman's cast is an ensemble. Each is listed in the program with one
of the main characters they play and then the words "and others." They each have
at least one star turn, and then slip smoothly in and out of numerous characters the rest
of the time. They are all excellent--tragic and comic in turns, moving like dancers and (a
compliment not often paid to actors) dealing with the water like fish who've been to
Ovid clearly knew the human soul: the strengths, the weaknesses and
follies, the anxieties behind thoughts and actions. In his stories he wrote about all
these things, but at a slant, symbolically, with people turning into trees and birds,
revealing truth through symbol, through myth. Myth as public dream, dream as private myth,
this is the world of Ovid that Zimmerman and her cohorts bring vividly to life on the
stage, and in the pool.
The most powerful of the myths is perhaps the story of Orpheus and
Eurydice, presented also in the poet Rilke's version; and the mixture of humor and pathos
in the tale of King Midas as a venture capitalist who can do no wrong; and Phaeton,
whining to his therapist that his relationship with his father Apollo wasn't all that
great, especially that disastrous day Phaeton insisted dad turn over the keys to the
chariot of the sun.
Metamorphoses is arguably the most moving, intriguing, and
ultimately entertaining evening of theatre in New York. It will transfer to Broadway soon,
and it should be one of the hottest tickets in town. Ovid, with a little help from his
friends, is indeed still living.
December 7, 2001
- Roy Sorrels