Chicago wunderkind director Mary Zimmerman finally got to create in New York the kind of critical and box office magic she is used to sparking in Chicago when Second Stage presented her adaptation of Ovid's myths, Metamorphoses. And the reaction has been tremendous. The show opened the season at the OB house on Oct. 9 to rave reviews. Then the limited run production extended a full month to Dec. 2. The original closing date was Nov. 4.
Now, as unbelievable as it may seem, Zimmerman's refined, moving and artful creation may move to that center of unbridled commerce, Broadway. The New York Times reported that producers Roy Gabay and Robyn Goodman were in final talks to bring Metamorphoses to Circle in the Square.
The choice of Circle in the Square is critical, as it is one of the few New York City spaces, and indeed the only Broadway house, that could artistically accomodate Zimmerman's work. Metamorphoses features a shallow, retangular pool of water through which the actor frequently wade, fall and sink; any theatre which hosted the piece would need a sloping seating configuration (as Second Stage has), to allow the audience a clear view of the water.
There's more good news for the show. The production has now extended to Dec. 30.
The cast includes Anjali Bhimani, Raymond Fox, Kyle Hall, Doug Hara, Felicity Jones, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Erik Lochtefeld, Heidi Stillman, and Lisa Tejero. The show won the 2000 L.A. Ovation Award for Best Play and has also been staged at Seattle Repertory (February 2000). Metamorphoses stages the great transformation myths of Ovid with additional material compiled by Zimmerman from other sources, including the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. King Midas, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Cupid and Psyche all make appearances during the evening, wherein they change physically, emotionally and mentally.
Props, many of them anachronistic, and music play as great a part in the show as the stage-sized pool. For example, to denote that everything King Midas touches turning to gold, every time he takes a step, finger-cymbals chime. When Narcissus stares at his own reflection in the water and freezes there, other cast-members carry him off while putting down a potted plant in his place. The son of the Sun wears yellow swim trunks and lounges on a yellow inflatable raft while whining to his therapist.
The show may prove an unlikely Broadway hit. Since its opening, many a critic has commented on the production's cathartic effect on its audience?an audience still numb from the impact of Sept. 11.
Asked about her methods, Zimmerman told Time Out-NY, "All my work uses technology available to children. Children make do with whatever's there. I think that aesthetic appeals to audiences. They like to fill in whatever's missing. We just do suggestive things, like turning into birds by flapping your arms."
Zimmerman, a MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant") recipient, is known for her innovative work with classical texts including Arabian Nights and The Odyssey, which she staged for Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Zimmerman is a Resident Manilow Director at the Goodman and an ensemble member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company, where Metamorphoses premiered in 1998.
Designing Metamorphoses are Daniel Ostling (set), Mara Blumenfeld (costumes), Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman (sound) and TJ Gerkens (lighting).
For tickets and information on Metamorphoses at Second Stage Theatre, 307 West 43rd St., call (212) 246-4422.
Also on the Second Stage roster this season are Athol Fugard directing his drama, Sorrows and Rejoicings (January 2002) with John Glover (Love! Valour! Compassion!) and Charlayne Woodard; a new Ricky Jay show directed by David Mamet (April 2002), and a revival of Wallace Shawn's look at discordant relationships, Marie and Bruce (June 2002). A revival of Edward Albee's Seascape, which had been rumored for this season, will now happen "next fall," according to a Richard Kornberg office spokesperson (reached Oct. 1).