“Metamorphoses” is a collection of vignettes relating tales from Greek mythology. While the pieces are thematically intertwined, each story stands alone – the ultimate impression is that of a dozen short plays within the larger play.
There’s the story of Midas, the king blessed/cursed with a golden touch. There’s the sad chronicle of Alcyone and Ceyx, a tale of love lost and reunited. There’s the godless Erysichthon, who defies the heavenly powers only to be cursed with an insatiable hunger. The saga of Orpheus and his tragic travels to the underworld to save his bride Eurydice is related, as are notable myths such as Narcissus, Phaeton and Apollo, Eros and Psyche. Vertumnus spins the story of Myrrha and King Cinyras. We hear of the gods’ journey to the home of poor Baucis and Philemon.
Myth upon myth upon memorable myth piles up, each story brought to life both narratively and physically. The combination of narration and action results in a richly realized storytelling forum – a show that is much more than the sum of its parts.
Oh, and by the way – it all takes place in a specially-built pool. That’s right – there’s a pool onstage.
The baker’s dozen of actors portray multiple roles as the stories unfold. Every single member of the 13-person ensemble (Jose-Luis Lopez Ramos, Alan Estes, Goldie Irvine, Jameson Ford, Jeremy McAdams, Amelia Courtney, Elliot Chicoine, Angela Alcock, Nellie Kelly, Emma Betterley-Dow, Andrew Cotterly, Maddie Altman, Patrick Meunier) brings a lustrous liveliness to the stage. Every character this ensemble creates is engaging and unique; no small feat considering the sheer number. The highlights are legion, with each and every story containing multiple instances of the humor and hubris that make the Greek mythos so fascinating.
These are tales told with pride and power and precision and pathos. An impressionistic world is created by this ensemble; a world whose stylized detail enthralls and seduces. There’s a lot of talent in this cast and everyone has their moment in the sun – some more literally than others.
Credit for that stylistic sense is shared by the production team. Set designer Dan Bilodeau and lighting designer Bradley Chelberg have teamed up to create an evocative combination of scenic and lighting elements, resulting in stage pictures packed with haunting beauty. The aforementioned Ramos does double duty as sound designer, creating a stirring soundscape as an auditory backdrop. Costume designer Jonna Klaiber finds the perfect balance between form and function, with wardrobes that are both utilitarian and aesthetically engaging.
And kudos to the technical direction team of Joe Donovan and assistant TD Kaleigh Knights, because again – and I cannot stress this enough – there is a freaking pool on the stage. It needs to be noted that the entire technical side of this piece is a marvel of theatrical engineering.
And steering the ship through these potentially rough waters is director Marcia Douglas. Bringing a show like this one to life is a difficult task; there’s no central story on which to hang your hat. Vignettes are dangerous; quality variance from bit to bit can cost a show its narrative integrity. But Douglas has created a dynamic ensemble capable of following through on bold choices; the end result is a piece so visceral that at times, you can feel it breathing.
“Metamorphoses” is not your everyday theatrical experience. It is challenging and rich and provocative; one more example of the good work being done by the University of Maine’s School of Performing Arts.