“Metamorphoses” at the Wells-Metz Theatre is Mary Zimmerman’s recasting of seven of the more or less familiar stories from Ovid in an imaginative and richly produced production directed by John Maness.
Things began slowly with a flowing dance sequence that seemed to climax with a rhythmic grasping of a staff that becomes the show’s “story stick” as it’s passed from character to character. The stories began on an amiable note with the personable Jeff Grafton appearing as the hapless King Midas, intially delighted at having all he touches turn to gold but then chagrined as he gilds his daughter. The dark story of the loyalty of Alcyone to the drowned Ceyx seemed tedious and things didn’t brighten much in the story of Erysichthon the primal clear cutter. A sort of humorless irony seemed to be in charge.
Then with the tale of the innocent nature girl Pomona and her clumsy swain Vertumnus, warm life was breathed into “Metamorphoses” and the audience clearly relaxed into laughter. There were serious moments in the unfolding stories, Myrrha’s unseemly love for her father for instance, but the teen-aged Phaeton on a psychiatrist’s couch explaining his wild ride in the chariot of the sun, the warmth of the love between the charitable Baucis and Philemon, and King Midas’s final release from the curse of the golden touch made for a dominating sense of humor and sweetness.
The IU production makes extensive use of sound from the air guitar of the god of wine to the sounds of nature like wind, rain, and thunder in a design by Claire Diedrich. Erica Griese’s varied costumes show an eye for flowing drapes and a lovely palate of vibrantly soft colors. The twelve member cast does good job with a script that calls for choral moments, group tableaux, and formal mask work as well as intimate small scenes.
“Metamorphoses” continues through Saturday in the Wells-Metz Theatre with evening performances at seven-thirty and a special two o’clock matinee on Saturday.