The move to Broadway of the Second Stage hit Metamorphoses has been a certainty for weeks now. What hasn't been known is when the magical Mary Zimmerman work would begin its stay at Circle in the Square. Now it can be said: Previews begin Feb. 21, 2002, with an opening on March 4, the producers announced Dec. 21.
The current resident at Circle is the musical The Rocky Horror Show, which is set to close Jan. 6, 2002. The month and a half gap between the shows will no doubt be used to remove David Rockwell's inventive, space-transforming Rocky set, and then install the 27-foot-wide rectangular pool central to Zimmerman's vision of Ovid's classic tales. Because of Circle in the Square's unique thrust stage, the audience will now surround the pool.
The Broadway cast will mirror the current Off-Broadway ensemble, which includes Anjali Bhimani, Raymond Fox, Kyle Hall, Doug Hara, Felicity Jones, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Erik Lochtefeld, Mariann Mayberry (who replaced Heidi Stillman during the Off-Broadway run) 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). The play was named the No.1 theatrical event of 2001 by Time magazine. Industry insiders wonder if the construction of myths is a true "play" or if the work might fall into the special Tony Award category that celebrates unique entertainments (Special Theatrical Event).
The Broadway run is produced by Roy Gabay, Robyn Goodman, Allan S. Gordon, Elan McAllister, D. Harris/M. Swinsky, Ruth Hendel, Sharon Karmazin, Chase Mishkin, R.L. Wreghitt/J. Bergere, in association with Second Stage Theatre (Carole Rothman, artistic director; Carol Fishman, managing director). *
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, and finally Dec. 30. The run is now sold out. The original closing date was Nov. 4.
Now, as unbelievable as it may seem, Zimmerman's refined, moving and artful creation is moving to that center of unbridled commerce, Broadway.
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 actors frequently wade, fall and sink; it was known that any theatre which hosted the piece would need a raked seating configuration (as Second Stage has), to allow the audience a clear view of the water.
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. Whatever its commercial reception, Metamorphoses is expected to stay open at least through Tony time, when the praised production will undoubtably win a few nominations.
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).
Metamorphoses is sold out through Dec. 30 at Second Stage Theatre, 307 West 43rd St. Circle in the Square is at 1633 Broadway at 50th Street. Broadway tickets will range $30-$75. For tickets, call Tele-Charge at (212) 239-6200.