Chicago Theatre Review
Lookingglass' Metamorphoses Revival is All the Beauty You Expect and More
Metamorphoses at Lookingglass Theatre Company
REVIEWED BY: Darcy Rose Coussens
Opening Lookingglass' 25th season is a stunning revival of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, a perfect choice to celebrate the company's unique niche as one of Chicago's most innovative theaters. Based on the myths by Ovid, the show has a rich history of its own transformations, from its roots at Northwestern University to its original opening at Lookingglass in 1998, followed by its travels around the country and collection of awards, including the Tony for Best Direction in 2002.
Now Chicago's audiences have another chance to experience the magic, because there truly is magic in this production. Zimmerman has created a mystical journey through some of the most well known ancient tales, often tales within tales. The audience is included in the making of such magic: a visible actor sounds the golden steps of Midas, seamless movement and partnering sequences sometimes tell more than words could, and most effective is the giant, rippling pool that claims most of Daniel Ostling's set design.
As an integral part of the show, the pool provides reflections, scenery, and a source of symbolic transformations in each story. Barefoot actors plunge fearlessly into the water, splashing, swimming and spiraling into the depths of grief or joy right in front of you (front row audience members are given towels). By the end most of the actors have wet hair and seem baptized by their 90-minute journey of wisdom. The pool offers a connection to nature that is not simulated but real, and the strong ensemble bares themselves to us boldly and honestly in it. Water helps relate these seemingly separate stories, intertwined by the theme of change and the force of love.
Alongside the enchanting movement and imagery is a large helping of humor scattered about the production. Som
e stories are ironic and funny, such as the interpretation of Phaeton as a dramatic pool lounger talking to his psychologist. Others have surprising moments of humor that ease tension and transitions from one tale to the next. Much of the humor is juxtaposed with moments in which we collectively catch our breaths at the poetic text, the beautiful physicality, or the simple vision of candles floating on the water. The language is reverent but candid, articulately creating this mystical world where people turn to birds and trees, and the gods play with lives of men.
This production stays true to the tone of the original writings while refreshing them with modern touches and strong physicality. Several interpretations of the same scene wonder at death's separation of Orpheus and Eurydice, breaking our hearts again and again. A quiet question and answer session explains the unity of love and soul, Eros and Psyche. Zimmerman's language is modern enough to bring us in and rich enough to convey the ancient power of Ovid's universal truths.
This is a show of miracles, ancient and beautiful miracles that reveal human nature. As one character says, “When you see a miracle like that, how can anyone deny the existence of the gods?” After witnessing them for yourself in Metamorphoses, you will not be able to deny it, either.
Metamorphoses Based on the Myths of Ovid, from a translation by David Slavitt.
Written and directed by Lookingglass Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman.
Lookingglass Theatre Company, inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works,
821 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago.
Runs September 29-November 18, 2012.
Tickets are $36-70 and can be purchased at (312) 337-0665 or www.lookingglasstheatre.org