If you are planning to see “Metamorphoses,” which is opening the Princeton Summer Theater season at Hamilton Murray Theater on the university campus, do yourselves a favor — Get there early enough to settle in your seat in time to take a good look at the stage.
The curtain is open and you will see a sea of sky blue floor, walls and backdrop. Hanging from ceiling hooks are a series of what look like faded bed sheets, plus six chairs, seven hula hoops, and five buckets. And underneath, lying in slumbering positions which you might take for inebriation, are six bodies — all clad ion white — motionless.
It might help you to know that the term “metamorphoses” was a work by the Latin poet Ovid (born in 43 BC) and that the original title of the work you are about to see was: “Six Myths”. It played first at Northwestern University in October of 2001, then to Broadway several months later. That original title describes pretty much what you can expect from the evening: a bit of King Midas, a touch of Eros and Psyche, a dash of Baucis and Philemon. And, above all, the need to combine classical acting with a sort of tongue-in-cheek suggestion of modernity.
So that slumbering sextet — three males, three females — and, most importantly, a director, Maeli Goren, are called on to highlight the individual talents of the ensemble as it searches for what Goren calls “the dark and winding corridors of human experience” and do it with “ compassion, hope and imagination.”
And that she has indeed done with undoubted success.
You should probably also know that as originally presented, the work was staged with an enormous pool of water on stage, the cast plunging in and out, especially as the myth changed or the mood shifted. In fact the first two rows of the audience were given blankets and later ponchos to protect them from exuberant performances. Here, a surrealist background takes the place of all that and I don’ think you’ll miss the splashing — in fact Ms. Goren and her troupe have created a kaleidoscope of theatrical ingenuity seldom seen.
During the 75-minute, no intermission evening, you will watch Ross Baron, Maeve Brady, Caroline Hertz, Bits Sola, Evan Thompson, and Brad Wilson. and you will simply have to find your own favorites. All are superior actors, all have individual creative tricks, and all are exciting. (Evan Thompson, for example, plays a delightful violin with casual effectiveness.) All sing well and all are vocally and physically capable of handing both the dialogue and all of the intricate changes of emphasis Many seem to be heading for a life and theater. They work collaboratively better than any group I can remember.
The stories flow easily — with a light touch when needed, with flair at all times. What a wonderful start to a courageous season. Please see it.
Metamorphoses, Princeton Summer Theater, Murray-Dodge Hall, Princeton University, through Sunday, June 28, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $22 to $27.50. 732-997-0205 or www.princetonsummertheater.org.