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Metamorphoses at N2T
Ovid's Metamorphoses pre-dates the gospels of the bible by a generally agreed upon estimate of 50 to 85 years and is based on myths that date about a thousand years before that, so when Mary Zimmerman adapted the poem into a play there was a bit of a culture gap to surmount. The story is kind of built for that though because Ovid was updating Greek Mythology for a Roman audience and Zimmerman was following suit by updating them for an American audience. It all works out quite nicely. Apparently all you have to do is make Zeus into Elvis with Beethoven’s hair and everything else seems to fall right into place. I could go on about the translation and updating but that would bore the hell out of all of you and involve words like dactylic hexameter. Any of the other five people in the state who care about dactylic hexameter can email me, maybe we'll start a Scrabble group. For the rest of the world I'll skip that.
Before I get to my obligatory nit-picking let me say that Nearly Naked Theatre has put together a wonderful production of the show. It's very funny; the pool-stage works to great effect; and I think if you're at all interested in mythology and/or theater you should probably try and go see the play before it closes December 22nd. There is a little nudity because Eros(Devon Nickel) doesn't wear clothes. Anyone who's ever looked at a Valentine card knows that.
I do, however, have to make a small contention with Nearly Naked having billed the show as an Arizona Premiere since the play originated as "Six Myths" in 1996 while Zimmerman was at Northwestern University, and culminated as Metamorphoses in its 2002 debut on Broadway. So technically it played in Flagstaff in larval form. None of that has anything to do with whether the production is any good. I just want everybody to have a little background.
As I was saying, it's a very enjoyable show. The pool stage is deceptively deep, and the company did great job of utilizing the small space of the theater. At first I was somewhat disappointed that it was difficult for me to pay attention to what was happening on both sides of the stage because wherever you sit in the Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre is pretty close to the stage and that's why it's the Little Theatre. But it worked because they staging distracts your attention away from the off-stage entrance to the pool. Even though you can clearly see someone swimming underwater onto the stage (most of the time--there is one brilliant bit with a fog machine), somehow I rarely noticed anyone coming in underwater. That worked well because it's like half the stage is a trap door and the pool allows for some very novel uses of vertical space. Everyone sloshing around in the water is a little odd at first, but after a few minutes your brain just accepts it and goes along for the ride.
The show makes good use of stage time with short interlude myths that fill time between things like costume changes, that works well too. The Pandora (Johanna Carlisle) segment for example, it had no dialog and took just long enough for everyone to gear up for the next scene. Yet it still contained everything you need to know about that particular myth. Conversely, I personally thought the Orpheus (Andres Alcalá) segment ran a little slow; the acting was admireable, but the scene jarred the Tempo a little. I'm sure this is in part due to director Damon Dering's love of the character (as noted in the playbill). But, it didn't do it by much, and made up for it by having the coolest special effect in the whole play thanks to the pool, and the fog, and a little bit of on-stage rain. I won't explain it, you'll have to see for yourself. Overall, well worth the cost of admission. However, it is a small theater and seating is limited so I’d get your tickets quick if you’re plan to see it.