Let's get the water puns out of our system, shall we? The Artists Repertory Theatre (ART) makes a big splash with Metamorphoses! Dive into Ovid with ART! Metamorphoses goes swimmingly!
Water is, actually, crucial to ART's new show. Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of Ovid is famed for requiring a large swimming pool in the middle of the stage, providing a medium in which fluidity is more than a metaphor, and change is always possible. Last-minute logistical issues interfered with ART's swimming pool, though, forcing them to improvise. Instead of the real stuff, the pool contains "metaphorical" water: rippling swaths of blue fabric. It's a credit to ART's versatility that not only is the loss of the much-hyped swimming pool barely felt, but also it's hard to imagine the production going any more successfully if there was real water.
In fact, it's hard to imagine this production going more successfully, period. Zimmerman's script is a clever adaptation of Ovid that injects a modern humor and panache into the old myths. ART's gifted ensemble, under the steady-handed direction of Randall Stuart, exercises the restraint needed to make this script work, allowing nary a hint of cheap sentimentalism to mar the production. The costume and sound design, too, work to good effect, maintaining a tone that is by turns playful, meditative, and deeply somber.
The show opens with the myth of Midas (Andrés Alcalá), who is granted one wish by the god Baucis (Paul Susi). His wish, for the power to turn whatever he touches into gold, immediately backfires when he embraces his daughter and the logical occurs. Midas' story gives a loose outline to the production; he is informed that in order to reverse his daughter's condition, he must wash his hands at the end of the earth. The production returns to Midas again in the final scene; in the interim, other myths are visited, some of the less familiar, but all involving some kind of transformation.
Though taken as a whole, the production has a gorgeous, poignant depth to it, the show is at times quite funny and stylish. The most crowd-pleasing scene involves Wade McCollum as the spoiled, surfer-boy Phaeton, lounging in the pool and telling his therapist (Mary MacDonald-Lewis) about how he crashed his dad's car. His dad, of course, is Apollo; the car, Apollo's golden chariot. It's a light, funny interpretation that gives a nod to the psychological implications of all of these myths.
ART's new show is funny, gorgeous, and heartfelt; a welcome reminder that there's something transformative about theater of this caliber.