Classic myths speak to today’s audiences at Aurora Fox Studio Theatre

Posted

"Enchanting!” said a friend as we exited the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre still under a spell, while those who sat in the front row returned the ponchos they had been issued.

“Metamorphoses,” Mary Zimmerman’s beautifully crafted play based on ancient Greek and Roman mythology, is graced with an excellent cast, imaginative direction by Geoffrey Kent and an especially fine set design by Charles Dean Packard. Zimmerman had drawn on writings by Ovid and other classical and contemporary authors, including Rainier Maria Rilke.

The set, with its cleverly lit pool of blue water, is almost another character in the script, certainly important to the sounds one hears throughout. It splashes, rains, has a waterfall and is deep enough for characters to disappear underwater and exit backstage. One keeps wondering: “How did they do that?”

The pool is surrounded by wooden columns that suggest Greek predecessors — and walls with openings where gods and men (and women) appear to present a collection of stories and characters that are part of our cultural fabric — and the source for many contemporary tales:

Orpheus and Eurydice, Narcissus, Aphrodite, Erysichthon and Ceres, Phaeton, Baucis and Philemon, Eros and Psyche …

We first meet a modern King Midas (a skilled Michael Morgan, who shines throughout), who talks like self-centered billionaire seen in the news today. A god, pleased with him, offers a wish and he asks that everything he touches might turn to gold. Although he has been shushing his active daughter, he is heartbroken when she leaps into his arms and we all know what happens to her.

Staging of this scene and those that follow is carefully and precisely carried out, with musical background, extraordinary lighting and sound. Every splash — and there are many — has a part in the characters’ story and elegant language.

A sense of humor is emphasized throughout by Kent’s expert direction. His experience as a classical actor is apparent.

A whiny Phaeton floats on an air mattress and complains that his dad, Apollo, God of the Sun, won’t give him the keys to the car so “he can light up the world for a day.”

A studly Narcissus appears from the wall portal and proceeds to admire his reflection until he freezes and is replaced by a plant.

While the spoken lines in “Metamorphoses” have a classical lilt, they are so clearly delivered that there is no problem in understanding them.

Throughout, Jada Roberts, who plays a nursemaid and others, serves as a sort of Greek chorus, interspersing observations as these humans and divine beings deliver vignettes. Other actors who play multiple parts include Zachary Andrews, Michelle Hurtubise, Jaimie Morgan, Carmen Vreeman, Justin Walvoord and Ryan Wuestewald.

Lovers of theater will not want to miss this fascinating production.