It isn’t often that audience members at the Don Evans Black Box Theater have to worry about being in a splash zone, but All College Theatre’s most recent production, “Metamorphoses,” was so true to Mary Zimmerman’s play of ancient Greek tales told around a pool of water that it did, in fact, include a pool with real water in the center of the small stage.
Perhaps it was the fascinating — not to mention beautiful — set that caused the show to sell out Saturday evening (ACT received $2,985.82 in Student Activity Fee funding to add the on-stage pool for the set designed by senior communication studies major Makenzie Barski.) However, honest acting by the cast and clever direction very quickly proved the pool to be no mere gimmick. There were nevertheless a few slips — literally — during the performance, despite the efforts of the “demigods” (supporting actors who cleverly doubled as stagehands) to swiftly soak up stray puddles between scenes.
“Metamorphoses,” directed by College alumna and actress Janet Quartarone, is a series of Greek mythology tales, adapted from the classic narrative poem of the same name. Starting with the story of the world’s creation, the play shifted through 10 different myths, as well as a brief, humorous interlude without dialogue that showed Narcissus (senior psychology major John Cherney) becoming paralyzed by his own reflection.
There were a few slow parts — likely because there were so many stories and no intermission — but overall the production was emotionally captivating. True to Greek mythology, the tales revolved around temptation, lust and love — and at one point even incest between father and daughter. Death and grief were also overwhelming at times, and for much of the play the audience was made completely silent by the heartbreak playing out before them.
To lighten the overall tragedy, certain parts were styled more modernly and injected with humor. For example, Apollo’s son, Phaeton (Cherney), narrated from an inflatable raft a most-unfortunate meeting with his father to a therapist (senior art major Sarah Stryker) in a beach chair. In another part, the god of spring Vertumnus (junior biology major Dan Loverro) attempted to woo wood nymph Pomona (senior women’s and gender studies major Liz So) by dragging out a suitcase of silly costumes and disguising himself.
It is difficult to name a specific star of the show, as all of the actors played multiple characters and did so with seeming ease (even when it meant taking a plunge in the pool). Every time someone gave a standout performance in one scene, someone did the same in the next. For example, sophomore math and secondary education major Jim Bloss held a commanding presence as King Midas, but in the following tale So was awe-inspiring when she wept convincingly as the recently widowed Alcyone, whose husband died at sea.
“‘Metamorphoses’ is problably the most technically advanced show that ACT has ever put on. Building a pool in the Black Box Theatre presented so many challenges,” said assistant director and junior journalism major Kimberly Horner. “Everyone really went above and beyond for this show, and I couldn’t be happier with how the show turned out.”
For the seniors of the cast and crew, “Metamorphoses” was their final production at the College, and many expressed a mix of disbelief and thanks in the show’s program. Perhaps it was their years of experience in College theater that made the production so convincing, although great performances by the younger cast members offers hope that ACT will do just as captivating work in future semesters.