The Drama of ‘Metamorphoses’

Courtesy of Paul Kennedy

Courtesy of Paul Kennedy

The word metamorphoses comes from the Greek language, meaning “process of changing shape.” This was elegantly portrayed in the UCI production of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.” The play is adapted from the classic Ovid poem and includes the story of Eros and Psyche from Lucius Apuleius’ novel “Metamorphoses.”

“I love making magic happen on a stage and all of these different tales are about transformations […] by angering or making the Gods happy, you are transformed into something else,” said director Annie Loui. “I love this kind of simple magic that becomes a metaphor for much bigger principles. I was very excited by the opportunity to make those transformations happen on stage.”

The play is divided into 10 scenes with each scene telling a different story based on the Greek myths. The transitions of scenes were done smoothly. Although each of the actors played multiple roles, they skillfully navigated and caused no confusion.

The themes for the scenes were things that we deal with in our day-to-day lives like love, lust, greed, death and separation. The portrayal of these primal emotions was done with utmost genuinity.

“This production is different because in this particular case, you are telling a series on mythological stories and they are all played by the same actors. In the seven stories, the 10 actors become many different things,” Loui said. “You have a company of actors that actually tell the tale to the audience […] in that way, the structure of this play is different compared to the other Greek tragedies and comedies that we have come across before.”

The second scene about Midas, played by Colin Nesmith, focused on greed.

“The role of Midas called to me in a way because the play is about transformation, [thus being] called ‘Metamorphoses’ for this reason. The way Midas changes over the course of this play is something fun for me to work with as I get to play one thing and then [change it to something] complete opposite,” said Nesmith, a third-year student in the MFA Acting Program.

The entire play followed a narrative style for the most part, which complemented the storyline wonderfully and was never distracting.

There were moments in the play that made me laugh out loud, such as Phaeton’s story. This tale was done with a modern twist, depicting a boy talking to his therapist about how his father, Apollo, was never around when he was growing up.

Eros and Psyche’s love story featured some of the most beautiful lines in the play. My favorite lines from this scene were the answer to the question: “Why does this story have a happy ending?” “It’s just inevitable. The soul wanders in the dark, until it finds love. And so, wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.”

Courtesy of Paul Kennedy

Courtesy of Paul Kennedy

The final scene showcased the story of Baucis and Philemon, a unique performance, because it required all 10 actors and actresses to ascend the stage and show the audience the value of true love.

“‘Let me die the moment my love dies/ Let me not outlive my own capacity to love/ Let me die still loving and so never die,’ These lines stood out to me when I [was 17 and saw the play for the first time],” said Rosemary Brownlow, a third-year MFA actor and fellow actress in the ‘Metamorphoses.’

“So when we had a chance to do this play here I was really excited. I think this play is gorgeous and the message of it is so beautiful,” Brownlow said.

Annie Loui’s reproduction of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses” is impeccable. The UCI production has done justice to this play completely by giving it so much life that it captivates you and leaves you spellbound long after the curtain call.