Theater Spotlight: Metamorphoses

Charlie Gorrill

Theatre Pro Rata; at the Loading Dock Theater through April 6;

Mary Zimmerman's Ovid adaptation (based on David R. Slavitt's translation) recasts classical myths, infusing them with welcome humor while still grasping themes of mutability, loss, and the sort of human curveballs that inspired the stories in the first place. In this staging, the first thing that meets the eye is a big, rectangular pool of water, sunk into the stage, in and around which the action takes place. It's a technical challenge for a small company like Theatre Pro Rata, but they pull it off, and along with Carin Bratlie's crisp, knowing direction, this is an evening that satisfies on levels high and low. In the early going Zach Curtis appears as King Midas. His head is shaved, and he stalks the stage like a modern-day mogul, taking advantage of a wish granted by the gods: his famous magic touch. He's warned that it's "a really, really bad idea," which is proven when his rambunctious daughter (Jen Rand) leaps into his arms, thus increasing her material value at the cost of her ability to live and breathe. There are short snippets played for laughs involving Narcissus and a cursing Sisyphus, but elsewhere the material spreads out and breathes. Curtis plays Orpheus descending into the otherworld, then losing Eurydice (Julie Ann Nevill), their farewell repeating and repeating. Later Curtis plays the smitten yokel infatuated with the nymph Pomona (Heather Stone). Curtis dresses up in old-lady drag (to hilarious effect) in order to unspool a story about Aphrodite (Emma Gochberg) cursing Myrrha (Rand) with an insatiable attraction to her father (James Lekvin); a squishy sex scene follows, and we're reminded that the Greeks didn't mind venturing into unpalatable territory when telling their grand stories. This Metamorphoses clocks in at 90 minutes, with no intermission, and manages to keep up its intensity while going from the raging seas to a floating psychiatrist's couch (where Daniel Joeck plays the disaffected son of a god), getting quite wet in the process but without a hint of dramatic sogginess.

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