Corrections or additions?
This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the October 31,
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Mary Zimmerman, the Chicago-based director whose work
("The Odyssey," "Arabian Nights") is notable for its
imagination, originality, cleverness and exotic subjects, has created
another jewel, this time derived from Ovid’s collection of
Dreamlike and fantastical, "Metamorphoses" is presented in
and around a 27-foot-long pool. Its blue waters shimmer in the glow
of T.J. Gerchken’s luminous lighting designs. Although the projection
of heavenly clouds overhead, in Daniel Ostling’s abstractly Romanesque
setting, may intimate the passageway to earth of the gods, it is
a mere doorway that they are afforded their entrances and exits. As
she did so cleverly with "The Odyssey" (seen at the McCarter
Theater last season), Zimmerman has laced these ancient, fantastical
stories of gods and their interventions in the lives of mortals with
a sparkling contemporary wit.
While Zimmerman’s vision is played out in varying ritualistic and
formalized styles, her text flirting with both flights of heavenly
poetry and more common and earthy prose, there is always a
contemporary edge superimposed upon the stories. These are played
out in both tranquil and turbulent waters. Notwithstanding a violent
storm at sea, or a sustained underwater action, the actors always
emerge and submerge ready to carry on their daunting and diverting
assignments. More than an aquacade of myths, "Metamorphoses"
weaves its dramatic magic from the moment King Midas goes off on his
quest to undo the curse of his golden touch. The need we have to
our relationships with those we have loved and lost, and for undoing
the wrongs we have done to those we love, are among the notable themes
in this episodic tapestry.
The ancient tales are sandwiched between the psycho-analytical
between Phaeton and his pool-side therapist. Wearing sunglasses and
swimming trunks and paddling about in his inflatable raft, Phaeton
tries to make sense of his relationship with his ever-on-the-move
father, the sun god Apollo. The tale of Alcyon and Ceyx, lovers
by fate but reunited as sea birds after death, is the first of tale
While many of the stories reveal the power of love and sorrow to
us, they also serve to remind us how, when tragedies occur, there
are extraordinary powers constantly conspiring to test our mettle
and our wings. Among the more unsettling stories is the one in which
a father unwittingly commits incest when his daughter Myrrha is
by the gods. Trickery by the gods is common in the other stories that
include Hermes and Zeus as two beggars, Psyche and Eros, and
The 10-member cast, most of whom, are part of the Zimmerman ensemble,
are all exemplars of the director’s sometimes cute, but more often
dazzling, directorial conceits. Many of these conceits are contained
in costumer Mara Blumenfeld’s ravishing and rib-tickling apparel.
While Zimmerman credits Freud, Jung, and James Hillman for part of
her text, we can credit Zimmerman for finding a way to bridge two
worlds, by honoring the ancient while embracing the modern,
the present by the looking at the past. "Metamorphoses" is
story theater at its finest and most engaging, especially appropriate
now in the world we have recently inherited.
— Simon Saltzman
$35 to $55. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.
The 1936 exploitation quickie "Reefer Madness"
holds its place, along with "Plan 9," "Attack of the
Tomatoes," etc., as one of the worst films of all time. This cult
phenomenon remains a laughably inane and inept polemic to educate
the public on the evils of marijuana, and how it corrupts and destroys
young lives — one puff can lead to insanity and death. An attempt
by collaborators Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney to redefine the
hilarious film in musical terms and also cash in on the current wave
of genre satires, like "Urinetown" and "Bat Boy,"
goes wildly amiss in a embarrassingly amateurish entertainment. Except
for a game and courageous cast, although many appear too old for their
roles as teens, the script they have to deal with, the dances they
have to perform, and the music they have to sing are unrelentingly
By and large the problems with the show begin with director Andy
who evidently was afraid that the material wouldn’t hold up without
a lot of flagrant nudging. An aggressive push to have the performers
mock the characters they are playing is one fundamental flaw; it works
against the point and purpose of satire — to expose stupidities
and follies in artful disguise. Pandering to the audience, the company
neutralizes whatever meager amount of wit and cleverness might be
gleaned from Murphy and Studney’s awkward smirking book, Murphy’s
lyrics, and Studney’s generic faux rock-swing score. Although there
is much self-congratulatory wallowing by the cast, Gregg Edelman does
his best to sustain a stiff-necked fix on his role as the moralizing
lecturer, much as the narrator does in "The Rocky Horror
The plot spins around the disintegration of a romance between
16-year-old Jimmy (Christian Campbell), and pretty, pig-tailed Mary
(Kristen Bell). During a typical afternoon of jitterbugging (the first
of choreographer Paula Abdul’s frenetic but pedestrian contributions)
at the soda shop, Jimmy is lured by Jack (Robert Torti), a sleazy
local drug pusher, to his lair. In that Jack’s stoned
Mae (Michelle Pawk), stumbles around helplessly between trips to
room to shut up her crying baby, she is unable to keep Jimmy from
being seduced by a blond floozy named Sally (Erin Matthew).
Mary is similarly ill fated. Her futile attempt to help Jimmy, who,
while under the influence, steals her car and kills a pedestrian,
only makes her a victim of the noxious weed. It’s the electric chair
for Jimmy and a trip to hell for Mary, not to mention the audience
that is told when to laugh by an usherette who strolls through the
action with placards that are supposed to be funny. The retro conceit
of the show, one that has worked for countless other shows like
Shop of Horrors," fails because "Reefer Madness" hasn’t
the courage to believe in itself, or help us believe in its
One lamentably over-produced fantasy musical number, in which Torti
portrays a glitzy-costumed Las Vegas Jesus surrounded by a chorus
line of angel showgirls, is merely painful to watch. One’s heart goes
out to the valiant Torti, the scene-stealing Pawke, the sweetly
Campbell and Bell, who do what they can to rise above the material
and avoid the hazards of Walt Spangler’s treacherously ugly setting.
Perhaps passing out a little weed with the playbill would help.
— Simon Saltzman
to $60. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.
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