Diving into the depths of Metamorphoses

In the story of Alcyone and Ceyx, the lovers (Sean Cackoski, left and Kailey Hewitt, right), with the help of the goddess Aphrodite (Kelsey Carroll) are reunited as birds after death, showing love never truly dies.

By Tara DeLorenzo

There was a pool on the stage of the Yvonne Theater — and not a little kiddie-pool — an actual pool.
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, audiences were immersed in the mystical world of Mary Zimmerman’s award-winning play Metamorphoses directed by assistant professor of theater Trent Blanton. This play, which is based on the myths of Ovid, weaves familiar fables together. It is set in a pool to create an ethereal viewpoint, making the focus of the play shift more to movement and grace.
There were 10 myths and fables covered in this intriguing and, at times, confusing play. Impressively, there were only 10 actors in this production — senior theater performance majors Tess Ammerman and Diana Cooper; juniors John Beirne, Sean Cackoski, Kelsey Carroll,  Sean Magnacca and Mark Swift; and senior musical theater major Kailey Hewitt and sophomores Abby Anderson and Cody Cooley.

The Creation of the world
The quick tale of chaos and gods allowed an eerie and otherworldly feel to blanket the audience. This felt like a slow start, but as the story of Midas began, it became clear that this would be a play unlike anything anyone present expected, with its many ups and downs as it moved from tale to tale.

Midas’ tale is one of greed. A superficial man (Magnacca), when approached by a god, asks for the power to turn everything his hands touch to gold.
Even against the god’s better judgment, Midas is granted the wish and ends up accidentally turning his own daughter (Cooper) to gold. Cooper showed great lightness and stood in great contrast to Magnacca’s darker humor. Their interaction together was only the start of portraying the power of movement. Midas’ daughter turned to gold in his arms with fantastic stillness and grace, even as he placed her into the shallow waters of the pool.

Alcyone and Ceyx
This couple, desperately in love, are forced to part, as Ceyx must take to the sea. Narrated by Ammerman, who had an outstandingly dignified voice, it started with the goodbye between Ceyx (Cackoski) and Alcyone (Hewitt). With the use of the pool and the dynamic movement of the sailors, the eeriness of the play intensified, making the audience witness their painful struggles. Hewitt added immensely to this scene, as her passion allowed the audience to understand how much agony she experienced at the loss of her husband. From this tale on, the play’s pace increased.

The story of Erysichthon is darker than the others. Erysichthon (Cooley) is an cold-hearted king who because of his cruelty to the land, is punished with the spirit of never-ending Hunger (Cooper). The intricacies of movement were once again highlighted here. Cooper wrapped around Cooley, bound to him. With the help of musician Brandon Ponzo, sophomore arts administration major, each of Cooper’s exaggerated movements were made to sound like a sickening snap, driving him further into starvation — so deep, he sells his own mother for a few coins for food.

Orpheus and Eurydice
From sinister and spine-chilling, Metamorphoses moves to tragedy with Orpheus and Eurydice, a couple who is separated on their wedding day, when Eurydice (Anderson) is taken to the Underworld and Orpheus (Cackoski) follows her down, seeking a second chance with the love of his life. Hades, the ruler of the Underworld (Swift), allows him the opportunity to bring her back, but until they see sunlight, she is to walk behind him and he is not to look back at her. The movement — stilled and stunningly beautiful — along with Anderson’s farewell call to her love, as Orpheus looks back at Eurydice, breaking the deal, was what made this scene the best part of the production. It was only enhanced as they repeat the section, as Hermes (Beirne) carries her back to the Underworld once Orpheus looks, with the two lovers getting closer and closer, only to be separated once more. With this tale too, the elegant language is emphasized and a tale of true heartache was told.

Pomona and Vertumnus
In contrast is the light-hearted story of Pomona and Vertumnus. Played by Beirne, Vertumnus, the god of nature, falls in love with the playful and spritely Pomona (Hewitt). He resiliently tries to get her attention, only to do so by dressing as an older woman to finally get her to talk. Beirne utilized physical and quirky humor to bring Vertumnus to life and with his believability and innocent nature, he got the audience hoping Pomona would take notice of him too. Hewitt, as Pomona, plays a spunky role and, in this tale, happiness is once again in the play.

After a light-hearted interlude, the story of Myrrha makes the play take a disturbing turn. Myrrha (Cooper), who is cursed by Aphrodite (Carroll) to fall in love with her own father. Carroll’s portrayal of the goddess of love was outstanding, and even with their dark interaction in this scene, Cooper and Carroll had great chemistry, as Aphrodite plagues Myrrha with fits of passion. Their movements together became sensual, as the goddess wrapped around the young girl. Adding to the stunning beauty of the tale was the depiction of Myrrha dissolving into tears with the help of the pool, and light, making for a breathtaking end.

Turning again to a lighter note is the story of Phaeton, the son of Apollo, who is in therapy. Taking his float in the pool with swimmies on his arms, Swift made Phaeton a snarky and sarcastic man, who is bitter that while taking his father’s chariot, he inadvertantly “set the earth on fire and fell.” Swift stole the stage and the show with his witty comments and entitled, teenage attitude.

Eros and Psyche
Once more, the audience was taken through a darkly beautiful tale with the story of Eros and Psyche. This one proved to be different though, as it concludes with a happy ending. Psyche (Carroll) is married to Eros (Cackoski), but she has never seen him before. When she finds a way to actually see who her husband is, she is harshly punished by Aphrodite, Eros’ mother, who is jealous of Psyche, and the two are separated for years. The tale is mostly told by narrators, but there was a beauty to Carroll’s depiction of Psyche, as she showed the struggles she endured during her punishment. More eeriness was added to the tale, thanks to dim lighting, even with its happy ending, as Psyche and Eros are finally allowed to make their marriage last forever.

Baucis and Philemon
The last tale of Baucis and Philemon is one of generosity and good nature. Zeus (Magnacca) and Hermes (Beirne) disguise themselves as humans and travel through villages, looking to understand the people, only to be helped by the poorest of villagers: Baucis (Anderson) and Philemon (Cackoski), a couple completely and enduringly in love with each other. For their generosity, the gods offer a gift, and all the couple asks is to never be parted. The chemistry between Anderson and Cackoski was outstanding and beautiful, and their love was believable. The two did a great job of bringing about one of the true messages of the play, in a vibrant and stunning scene where they die together, wrapped in each other’s arms.
The major confusions of the evening came from the back and forth between stories. As the stories shifted from one to the next, it was hard to keep up and get into the set-up of the play. As the show progressed, it became easier to make distinctions.
In regard to the set, the pool made the scenes magical and beautiful. It stole the stage with its golden tones. With its Greek roots, it only helped to enhance the actors’ movements, making for an enchanting show.
The actors’ ability to change between characters so flawlessly, while adorned in Greek costumes, was outstanding. The audience was captivated by their movements.
Metamorphoses is a harrowing story of fighting to have love, no matter what happens, showing “if we allow ourselves to be blind [as Eros and Psyche had to be], happy endings happen.”

Printed in the 11/6/13 edition.

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