Magical Metamorphoses

From academic to entertaining, Mary Zimmerman offers a sleekly sophisticated retelling of classic mythology

The acting comes courtesy of 10 actors who take on various roles, from King Midas to Apollo to Aphrodite, and do such an accomplished job working together as a tight ensemble, you give up trying early on to identify anyone who is better than the rest. They’re all equally great, and most if not all of them are used to working as a sharp team. In fact, five of them are veterans of the show from when it was on Broadway a decade ago, and a few of those started with the show even earlier as graduate students at Northwestern. These include Doug Hara, who plays, among other characters, a spoiled Phaeton, complaining about the inattentiveness of his father Apollo, all the while soaking up his father’s sun, lounging on a float. This story encapsulates why this production of Metamorphoses works so well: Hara’s Phaeton is a riot, but he plays it straight-faced and serious. He pauses every now and then to let the crowd chuckle, but not so exaggeratedly that he’s egging us on to guffaw.

Metamorphoses
starstarstarstarstar
To March 17
Arena Stage
1101 Sixth St. SW
$40 to $85
202-488-3300
www.arenastage.org

The show is peppered here and there with light humor, including knowing winks to its own art and artifice. But the humor never overpowers the main, serious themes, which capture the spectra of ineffable human qualities, from love to loss, satisfaction to greed, selflessness to vanity.

Metamorphoses runs for roughly 90 minutes without intermission. You’ll be happy they opted not to interrupt the magic halfway through, but chances are you’d be content with it going longer. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll leave with a fervent wish that Zimmerman and Arena team up again, and soon.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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