The production of METAMORPHOSES by Mary Zimmerman currently at the NAC is a perfect example of a very good production of a very weak play. METAMORPHOSES is based on the myths of Ovid and is staged, apparently at the request of the playwright, primarily in and around pools of water. The watery gimmicks disguise the fact that there’s not much of a play there, and what there is comes off as both sophomoric and pretentious. The script is rather what one would expect from a university MFA program, not professional theatre. That said, I repeat that the production is first rate.
Bretta Gerecke’s eye-catching double level set of silvery metal features not one but two pools. The smaller tank on the upper level has a glass front, allowing the audience to see what’s happening under water. The large square pool below appears to be about a foot deep and gives the actors plenty of room to slosh around as well as sit on the surrounding benches. Stairs right and left connect the levels, and – oh – more water. It constantly rains in a band onto the upper level and pool. Miss Gereke’s costumes are excellent and clever, especially that for Apollo.
As for the lighting, Leigh Ann Vardy has created some nice effects with lights on the water, in particular in the opening. However the general lighting is rather dark and at times the actors are difficult to see.
Jonathan Monro’s music is wonderfully creative and atmospheric. It uses glass instruments played by the actors, upstage on the upper level. They produce a transparent and watery shimmer of haunting sound.
The large cast, all of whom play multiple roles, is strong and balanced. Joey Tremblay makes an especially good Midas, while Ryan Allen does a splendid job with the singing of Orpheus and Apollo. The always excellent Alix Sideris has a great time playing Hunger and is powerful as Myrrah. As for Andy Massingham, he’s just plain terrific in all his roles and does a wonderful flop into the tank.
Director Jillian Keiley has done a fine job of pulling all the production elements together into a cohesive whole. However I question her decision to put her actors onstage for so long prior to the opening scene. There seems to be no reason for it and little point to the various interactions. Miss Keiley’s staging is, in general though, effective and ingenious.
For me the splashy production can’t hide the weakness of the script. Take away the gimmicks and you’re left with not much, but if you like razzle-dazzle, you’ll probably enjoy it.
I feel it’s necessary do something I’ve done a few times before and split the rating. So, on a scale of one to five the NAC English Theatre production of METAMORPHOSES gets four and a half Royal Canadian Mounted Police, while the play itself gets one. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.