Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” adapted from Ovid’s eponymous classic poem, is not an easy play. Its storylines are charged, mystical and convoluted, with light and sound bombarding audience members as hypnotizing histrionics enthrall them. By no means is this a simple project to direct, perform or coordinate.
Luckily, it is a task that is adequately met by ambitious neophyte director Charlie Polinger ’13, who proposed the theatrical behemoth for this year’s Freshman Show. The challenge posed by this play, however, does not lie on the technical workings of putting the show together; instead, the creative details are what count.
All incarnations of “Metamorphoses” present three constant elements: a door, a sky and a pond, the latter being its most prominent scenic feature. In stark contrast to what one would expect, attendees will witness a relatively bare yet experimental stage, a wooden quadrangle surrounding a blue tarp center — with no water. For Polinger, the innovative decision fits the symbolic essence of the plot, giving performers much more freedom for interpretation in a play that is “all about representation.”
And if there’s one thing the actors do here, it is to represent and personify. Indeed, each performer undergoes a fitting process of metamorphosis, seamlessly switching between mythological personas as if by mere wardrobe changes. Willa Fitzgerald ’13 is the woman by the water. Or maybe she’s the delightfully coy yet coquettish wood nymph Pomona? Or consider Mike Young ’13, whose take on Midas both starts and ends the play in splendid and circular fashion, resembling the loop of a stage where everything unfolds.
Sarah Matthes ’13 particularly masters the art of becoming a mythical chameleon, effortlessly skipping from the innocuous daughter of King Midas to the incestuous daughter of King Cinyras. In the play’s most powerful performance, with very little dialogue, Matthes haunts and absorbs the audience as Hunger, in a guilty pleasure of a performance that straddles the line between disturbing and enjoyable.
Equally captivating is the original score by Jourdan Urbach ’13, which complements every embrace, every kiss and every plot twist and is a feat that could easily be ignored.
Neither Urbach’s nor Polinger’s prowess comes unaccompanied. The Freshman Show, naturally, is comprised of freshmen in all areas of production, performance, orchestra and crew. This production — which opened last night at the Iseman Theatre — proves to be the perfect amalgamation of freshman theatre talent. There is an inherent eagerness driving every single aspect of this show (if I got a nickel for every time I heard “I’m so excited” before the dress rehearsal), but everyone involved has obviously displayed staggering sums of professionalism. But maybe I should not sound so surprised.
What could’ve been a Directed Studies wet dream/fiasco yields a fantastic end result: a story of anachronistic quality. Polinger praises the universality of the myths portrayed in each vignette, referring to them as echoes of the abrupt shift experienced by freshmen in the uncharted college land. Strangely enough, the description fits. Maybe Phaeton’s daddy problems will ring a bell in some, or perhaps Eros’ full frontal will bring about the strongest memories. Regardless of what you take from this play, consider this year’s show as a promising glimpse into the future of theatre à la 2013.