When Acme Theater company says “limited seating” for its new production, Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, directed by Emily Henderson, they mean it.
The company has closed off all of the Veterans Memorial theater seating area and 80 chairs are placed around the perimeter of the stage, encircling a pool of water in, on, and around which all the action takes place. It may be the most unusual staging of an Acme show yet, though the pool is essential for this play and gives plenty of opportunity for water fights, boat rides, and floating dead bodies.
There are no credits for “set design” or for “lighting design,” though the set crew is headed by Anthony Pinto and the light crew by Zack Leuchars. The dramatic lighting was essential to creating the mood and was carried out beautifully. The smoke and steam was handled better than I’ve seen in a long time.
The printed program could have used some clarification and because I know that I’m not going to remember everyone who played each part (both because not all the parts are named, and because not all the character names are obvious), I will list the members of his excellent cast alphabetically in case I happen to leave anyone out in the review itself. Each plays several parts (and therein lies the confusion!)
Isaac Aldous, Camille Beaumont, Victoria Gimpelevich, Ernie Hernandez, Zack Leuchars, Alexandra n Moreno, Anthony Pinto, Tatiana Ray, Emily Tracy, Josh van Eyken, Celsiana Warwick and Dara Yazdani.
“Metamorphoses” is a 90 minute play which recounts several of the tales of Ovid, the overall message of which, I think, is “don’t go messing around with any gods.”
The show opens with the story of King Midas (Dara Yazdani, who just gets better and better with each production he does) who is granted one wish and foolishly (against the advice of the god Bacchus (Zack Leuchars)) wishes for everything he touches to turn to gold. Of course, he regrets his decision when his young daughter is turned to gold, and he sets off on a quest to find a way to reverse the wish.
In Alcyone & Ceyx, Ceyx (Isaac Aldous) sets out to sea against the pleas of his lover Alcyone (Celsiana Warwick). A sea voyage and a sea battle allow for lots of splashing about in the pool and dead bodies floating on the water. The tale does not exactly have a tragic ending, however, as the lovers are turned into sea birds and fly off to spend all eternity together.
Perhaps the high point of the show is the delightful Phaeton, with Ernie Hernandez as the son of Apollo and a mortal woman. This family has definitely put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Phaeton is meeting with his psychiatrist talking about how hard it is to convince all the other kids that his Dad is really the sun god. He talks Daddy out of the car keys and takes off with his car...with disastrous results. Hernandez is delightful, proving that young gods can be just as petulant and whiney as young humans.
Special note should be made of Anthony Pinto (as “Zeus and others”), who is always outstanding and of Victoria Gimpelevich, who has several of the smaller roles and stands out in each of her scenes (she also wields a mean squeegee).
The final story of Baucis and Philemon, a humble couple with more charity in their hearts than any of their richer neighbors, ends with a beautiful scene of floating of candles on the surface of the pool, and very nicely brings the whole collection full circle.
With Emily Henderson at the helm as director, the transition from Acme founder Dave Burmester to the next generation is well in hand. Henderson could learn a bit about directing for theater in the round. I missed the entire brief tale of Pandora because all the action was directed to the opposite side of the stage and I could barely see the box, much less what was going on, but even some of the local long-term directors in the form have difficulty with theater in the round, so she’s in good company. For the most part, the direction was expertly done, and Acme’s reins are in good hands.