'Metamorphoses' uses onstage oasis for Midas touch


Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 2:01 a.m.
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"Metamorphoses" uses water from an onstage pool.

ALEXANDER COHN/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

Metamorphoses

  • WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; through Feb. 4
  • WHERE: Gainesville Community Playhouse, Vam York Theater, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
  • TICKETS: $15, available at Omni Books in Westgate Plaza; day of show tickets available one hour before showtime at box office (376-4949)

  • Those crazy, intrepid theater people at the Gainesville Community Playhouse have done it: They've created a full-size pool right on stage in the Vam York Theater where they are performing Mary Zimmerman's beautiful play, "Metamorphoses."
    It's no small feat to house 7,000 pounds of water in an on-stage pool where 12 actors interpret new versions of tales from Greek mythology. Based on the stories of Ovid, some, like the tale of King Midas and his golden touch, are familiar; others like the doomed sea voyage of King Ceyx whose adored wife, Alcyone, dreams of his death, are less familiar.
    Nine myths are recreated on stage and all are about love, loss, sorrow and redemption. All are laced with humor and pathos. All are united by the pool of water which serves as their agent of change, moving them physically, emotionally and intellectually into a new consciousness, a new state of being.
    "Metamorphoses'" narrative thread begins slowly but, once it builds momentum, it makes you captive to its world. Initially, it is amusing to hear King Midas brag about his massive amounts of money and how it's all for his . . . his family? He's funny when he chastises his young daughter whose play interrupts his self-congratulatory monologue. But, when the gods grant his wish that all he touches turns to gold, anguish replaces laughter as his touch takes life from the child he loves.
    The often told tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is played out twice, once in Ovid's version, and again, in the words of the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. Both are heartbreaking as the lovers walk around and around the pool, always ending with Orpheus pausing for a backward look at his beloved Eurydice and thus, losing her forever. The poignancy of their shattered love is heightened by the lyrical performance of Loren Omer as Eurydice.
    In the play's funniest vignette, Tyson Savoretti plays teenager, Phaeton, who borrows "the keys to the car" from his dad, the sun god Apollo, richly intoned by a humorous Ron Haase. Mary Thomson is the therapist who listens to Phaeton's account of his disastrous ride with the fiery sun in tow. It's not hard to guess how that ride ended.
    In the play's final scene, Baucis and Philomen, a devoted old couple, ask the gods to let them die at the same moment. Zeus and Hermes grant their wish and, as all gather at the side of the pool, the words, "Let me not outlive my own capacity to love" and "Let me die, loving and so, never die," are spoken in an eloquent, moving moment.
    The GCP's production of "Metamorphoses" is beautiful visually, but suffers from a lack of projection by the cast. When those waves in the pool roar, the actors words cannot be heard unless they stand, facing the audience. On opening night, they tended to speak without nuance, a problem for Zimmerman's poetic language which deserves to be heard and understood. All the same, director Gerald L. Brewington has exacted imaginative performances from his cast. Jan Cohen, Samantha Golabuck, Saie Kurakula, Cristina Palacio, Pete Roe, Tommy Rinkowski, Carolyne Salt, Sarah Emily Segars and the aforementioned Omer, Haase, Savoretti and Thomson play more than 30 roles. The set design by Brewington with its dominant, amazing pool and cloud-spotted blue sky above, is a knockout. Patricia Thomson has combined simplicity and elegance for her costume designs. Katie Keena is in charge of lighting and sound. The dramatic lighting is fine but the production would benefit from a stronger selection of music. Borrowing from another genre (and with apologies to Kevin Costner), it's been said, "If you build it, they will come." The GCP has built something beautiful, sturdy and unusual. Surely, audiences will come.

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