‘Metamorphoses’ Explores Greek Mythology with Grace

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | “Metamorphoses,” directed by Hannah Sachs '16, opened on Oct. 23.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | “Metamorphoses,” directed by Hannah Sachs ’16, opened on Oct. 23.

 

Janan Fugel ’19
Contributing Writer

This weekend, I attended the theater department’s production of “Metamorphoses.” This play, written by Mary Zimmerman and directed by Hannah Sachs ’16, was adapted from the classic Ovid poem of the same name. Like the poem, “Metamorphoses” is staged in several vignettes depicting various figures from Greek mythology.

The play addresses nuanced and complex themes. The overall mood of the play does not easily fit into the traditional genres of comedy or of drama. Avid theater lovers or Greek mythology scholars would delight in watching this play, but even they might find it puzzling. That being said, I admire the director and cast for putting on such a complex show. The actors portrayed the mythological figures with tact and grace, even when having to submerge themselves completely clothed in a pool of water in the center of the stage. Many of the classical myths incorporated into the play revealed one common theme: transformation. The show depicts the changes that occur out of the characters’ control and how they deal with these changes. A few of my personal favorites included Orpheus and Eurydice, the legendary poet and his young bride who faced death before her time. The story follows Orpheus who, overcome with grief, braved the journey down to the Underworld and struck a deal with Hades only to lose his love once again when he looked back at her, breaking his bargain.

After the show, I got the chance to speak to Sachs, a theatre major and religion minor at Smith. “Metamorphoses” was only the second full-length show she has directed. The first was done on a much smaller scale with a four-person cast. When I asked why Sachs chose this show, she said that “Metamorphoses” was “so outside of my comfort zone.” She wanted more of a challenge with her next play, and she certainly got it with this bold and courageous choice. Sach’s biggest challenge in directing this play happened to be the highlight of the show for me. The main focus of the beautifully crafted set is a multi-level, rectangular pool located center stage.

With an element like this, even the most professional actors could get tripped up. Including water on stage can be unpredictable, and the actors must learn how to work with it, especially when they are fully submerged. Quick changes become more difficult, and walking around the stage becomes dangerous and possibly slippery. The pool element also means that blocking is always changing, and no scene looks exactly the same each time it is performed, which can be maddening for the director and cast.

Another standout part of the show was the set, which was wonderfully designed and decorated. The chandelier and other hanging fixtures with fringe were beautiful and eerie when the scene called for it. The lighting also added another layer to the mythological and ethereal elements of this elaborate play. The costumes were overall simple but quite effective. Some were more modern, juxtaposing neatly against the older text. Each costume was clearly specifically designed for each of the characters, without being so literal the costumes lost their element of subtlety.

If you go see “Metamorphoses,” go with an open mind. It is not your typical play, and it is certainly not a show you can passively watch. You will definitely have to think while watching this piece to look for the true meaning of each story and consider how each one speaks to the others.

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