Metro Weekly

Folger’s ‘Metamorphoses’ Is As Good As Gold (Review)

The Folger's "Metamorphoses" charts a fantastic voyage through myth and time, and in brilliantly engaging company.

Metamorphoses - Photo: Brittany Diliberto
Metamorphoses – Photo: Brittany Diliberto

Life begins with a noise in the dark, a quiet rattle and hum that bursts into a joyful communal dance ended abruptly by violent separation.

From this first myth of creation, to a final heartfelt reunion, Psalmayene 24’s funny, sure-footed staging of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses at the Folger Theatre reaps the rewards of an inspired premise and well-directed company.

Based on Ovid’s epic tales of gods and man, the play condenses the original poem’s 15 books into a compendium of fables following fated figures like King Midas, and doomed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. Psalmayene’s production further reimagines these myths as stories set in the African diaspora, performed by an all-Black cast (a first for the Folger).

Given a modern-day milieu, rendered with notes of African art and dance, American pop culture, and witty, accessible humor, this Metamorphoses remixes myths and morality with funk, soul, and hip-hop, and doesn’t miss a beat.

More to the point, the tight, versatile ensemble doesn’t miss a beat of Zimmerman’s archetypal drama, the adventurous direction, or Tony Thomas’ lively choreography.

Metamorphoses - Photo: Brittany Diliberto

Mika Eubanks’ boldly cheeky costumes also speak volumes for the show’s array of kings, queens, nymphs, deities, and celestial beings. Jon Hudson Odom, in a blue velvet blazer and jaunty gold crown, limns a gregariously greedy Midas, who’s left with a palpable sense of heartache once his golden wish has been revealed as a curse.

Gerrad Alex Taylor is a gas as the groovy god Bacchus, the foil in the Midas fable. In looks and attitude, Bacchus serves up a disco fantasy, abetted by the wonders Rueben D. Echoles works with wig and hair design.

Musically-gifted Orpheus evokes legends bigger than disco. Portrayed in another compelling turn by Odom, Orpheus is embodied with elements of Prince, Michael Jackson, and James Brown. But music and splendor can shift suddenly to misfortune. And, as Orpheus begs for the life of his beloved Eurydice (Billie Krishawn), Odom, for the second time in the evening, finds the heart in tragedy.

As Myrrha, cursed to pine romantically for her father King Cinyras (DeJeanette Horne), Renea S. Brown finds heart, and the delicate balance of tension and abandon, in the aptly unnerving tale of incest. Horne’s Cinyras doesn’t register the same gravitas, although the actor, as with everyone in the ensemble, has a shot to shine in multiple roles.

Taylor, for instance, follows up his amusing Bacchus with a delirious take on Erysichthon, a man who would ravage the earth or sell his own mother to satisfy his unwieldy appetite.

Yesenia Iglesias offers an ethereal Aphrodite in the shipwrecked love story of Alcyone (Renee Elizabeth Wilson) and Ceyx (Horne). And Manu Kumasi earns laughs for his determined Vertumnus, a not quite master of disguise in pursuit of nymph Pomona (Wilson).

Throughout the show, performer Miss Kitty lends mystery and a sprightly physicality to several roles, including as the silent but powerful god Hermes. As a water nymph, she ushers in a great flood with a dance, trailing her diaphanous blue fabric like waves crashing onto shore.

With such fluid ingenuity and rich imagery — persuasively assisted by William K. D’Eugenio’s lighting — the production traverses the heights of love and depths of loss. Ultimately, the mythical journey arrives at a satisfying end, shoring up the timeless pull of these immortal tales. “Let me die still loving, and so, never die.”

Metamorphoses (★★★★☆) runs through June 16 at the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $20 to $84, with an Affinity Night performance on June 7 honoring the LGBTQ community.

Call 202-544-7077 or visit

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