A good story can be told over and over again by a host of authors and interpreters and never lose its power and resonance. Such is the case with “Metamorphoses,” derived from a long line of takes on the original myths of the Roman writer, Ovid, composed in 8 A.D.
A Noise Within’s production, directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, takes its cues from the original staging and direction of Mary Zimmerman’s 1996 stage show, which premiered in Chicago in 1998, and was itself derived from David R. Slavitt’s free-verse translation of Ovid’s tales.
A sparkling cast of actors—Sydney A. Mason, Cassandra Marie Murphy, Erika Soto, Trisha Miller, Nicole Javier, Rafael Goldstein, Kasey Mahaffy, DeJuan Christopher, and Geoff Elliott—completely inhabits a total of 85 roles, over the six myths presented.
With bold and dramatic light, a shallow pool center stage serves as a street, a battlefield, the open sea, a boudoir and therapist’s office as the various tales are spun across the evening.
From there, the myths begin with “Cosmogony,” the beginning of the world, told by Zeus, the Woman by the Water, and the Scientist, who introduce us to the familiar tale of King Midas (Elliott) in a powerful and challenging performance as the insatiable leader, as told by three laundresses at the water’s edge.
From there Alcyone (Miller) and Ceyx (Christopher) play out their tale of Ceyx’s ill-fated ocean voyage. The episode is the first we see of the expansive talents of both Miller and Christopher as the powerful narrative is one of many times we will see a range of emotions from each, as their story unfolds to its inevitable end.
Within such a bounty of strong stories and characters portrayed by so many versatile actors, there are only too many strong performances to point out.
Goldstein is impressive both as the insufferable Erysichthon, who in his disdain for the gods, cuts down a sacred tree, and as Orpheus, who travels to the Underworld in search of Eurydice (Soto), in an oft-told tale.
Kasey Mahaffey is equally effective as Silenus, the lost traveler, and is particularly pungent as Phaeton, the son of Apollo, god of the sun. Mahaffey takes out his woes with his therapist while seated in a pool lounge chair, spoiled heir that he is, complaining that Daddy won’t let him drive the sun across the sky.
Erika Soto once again shines brightly as the lustful Eurydice and other equally remarkable portrayals.
In the final tale, “Baucis and Philemon,” two gods—Zeus and Hermes— disguise themselves as beggars, measuring the kindness of humans across the world, with predictably disappointing results. When finally accepted as guests of the poor Baucis and Philemon, they grant the couple a final wish of their own.
As the heartbreaking wish is revealed, the telling of the myths comes full circle. Let me leave you there. Suffice to say that the simple beauty of a great story never wanes.
Metamorphoses runs through Jun 5, 2022 at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena, CA. (626) 353-3100. www.anoisewithin.org.