Ovid’s Metamorphoses retold by the Arden in Philadelphia

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Mary Zimmerman’s staging of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is now on the Arden stage in Philadelphia until November 1. She retold many of the myths of Ovid in a production that was nominated for a Tony when it was presented in New York City. It is now presented by her former college classmate, Terence J. Nolen, who is Arden Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director. Even more interesting is this production’s director, Doug Hara, who starred in the 1998 production, was associated with its 2012-2013 revival, and is now directing it here in this beautiful and touching production.

This production at the Arden is beautiful to see, touching to hear, and beautifully acted. The set is centered upon a pool containing 2,600 gallons of water, with planking surrounding it, making it a theatre-in-the-round (on three sides) experience. There is a set of stairs and walkways set into the proscenium stage from which characters enter and exit.

There were wine-colored hand towels folded on the seats of the first row (a nod to Ovid’s famous quote about “the wine-dark sea”?) to be used whenever the characters might too zestily splash about in the pool. (Truth be told, there was only one instance when they were used, during a struggle in the pool.)

The large ensemble cast assumed numerous personae during the evening. We encountered the myths of Midas, Phaeton, Pomona and Vertumnus, Cupid and Psyche, Orpheus and Eurydice, and several others, some not well known to the audience, as gauged by their surprised reactions. As listed in the program, the actors are: Krista Apple Hodge was a stately “super model” Aphrodite, Sean Bradley, a touching Orpheus, Leigha Kato as Myrrha, Alex Keiper as Alcyone, Sharina Martin as Nursemaid (and a humorous turn as psychiatrist for Phaeton), Christopher Patrick Mullen as Midas, Clare O’Malley as Eurydice, Steve Pacek in an amusing turn as Phaeton, Lindsay Smiling was Erysichthon, and Brandon Price was Vertumnus. When naked on stage as Cupid in the tale of Cupid and Psyche, Mr. Price’s nudity was integral to the plot. (This was the source of the program’s warning that there will be nudity.) As one audience member was heard to ask after the show, “Why weren’t most of the characters naked?” Many of the tales would have logically allowed it. Not to mention the fact that being submerged in, walking in, and diving into that enormous pool, costumes were soaked, necessitating numerous costume changes.  As for those costumes, they were timelessly realized by Olivera Gajic. Brian Sidney Bembridge, as Scenic Designer, could take credit for that wonderful pool and clever stage. Lighting was mystical, as it used a chandelier, candles, and clever techniques by Thom Weaver. The unobtrusive, yet lovely, soundscape was created by Christopher Colucci.

For more information, visit their website at: www.ardentheatre.org . Next appearing in November will be Equivocation, by Bill Cain.

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