Second Stage Theatre kicked off its 23rd season with the New York premiere of Metamorphoses, and it is a play that should not be missed. Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, who brought the production from the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago, where it was originally produced in 1998, Metamorphoses is based on the myths of Ovid, and the title says it all: it is about change and the transforming power of love, themes especially timely given the state of the nation. Zimmerman’s play has many deft touches of humor that makes the myths very accessible with love and loss, redemption and rebirth, myths that inform our modern life. Most importantly, to our readers anyway, this is a show where all of the collaborators were in the same room at the same time; the production team did any excellent job of integrating the scenic, lighting, costumes, and sound elements into one seamless environment. This team has worked with Zimmerman before and since and it shows in the rich production values of this production.
The scenic design by Daniel Ostling is reminiscent of paintings by Magritte and the dream state they evoke. The dominant feature of the set is a 27-foot wide pool of varying depths with a walkway on all four sides of the pool where the action takes place in and around (more often in.) The pool was used to great effect, to not only evoke a very ethereal location for the myths to inhabit but also to represent elements of the stories, ranging from the sea, to a pool, to food, to a passionate bed. The front row of seats at Second Stage had towels folded neatly over them before the performance; I think ponchos may have been better suited and definitely for the first four rows.
Another well-incorporated scenic element was literally a "patch" of clouds and sky that gave the lighting designer the ability to move time through out the piece. The lighting by TJ Gerckens was quite beautiful and worked well in interaction with the water as well as the actors. The lighting never failed to help shape the space while maintaining the flowing and ever shifting locations. The costumes by Mara Blumenfeld ranged from ancient to modern and helped to define the characters. The richness of the fabrics and the style worked well, since more often than not they were soaking wet. The crew must be given credit, since many of the actors make what seem like fast changes and need to come back on again dry. The sound design by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, in combination with Will Schwarz’s score, melded with the lighting, costumes, and scenery in shaping the ethereal world of Metamorphoses. The sound underscored the stories and myths, helping to define the transitions and settings. Overall the outstanding production values, along with Mary Zimmerman’s vision helped to give the audience an enthralling and unique theatrical experience.