EMPHATIC ENSEMBLE The OUT LOUD crew. [Photo by Nile Scott Shots]
The myth is the public dream as the dream is the public myth, it is pointed out in Metamorphoses, by Mary Zimmerman, which OUT LOUD Theatre is presenting through October 4 (at the Artists’ Exchange), directed by Kira Hawkridge.
Both dreams and myths rise up from fathomless depths, often urgencies that have broken free to warn or inform us. This play, which seems to be stringing together both bedtime stories and fevered hallucinations, is based on Roman poet Ovid’s voluminous narrative, which unspooled more than 250 myths.
In this black box presentation, 13 actors take on numerous roles, by that demonstrating the amorphous nature of human beings. Zimmerman’s text specifies props — a rosebud in a vase, a chandelier — but this spare production leaves all to our imaginations. The ensemble serves as a narrating chorus at times and occasionally morphs into an object, such as a wall that approaches a man as he walks in place, one of director Hawkridge’s deft touches.
Our fascination with change is introduced in the first words, as a woman (Sarah Leach) looks at her own reflection in a pool of water and asks the gods to help her understand “the world’s birthing” out of chaos.
The first myth to help us decide whether Zeus created “of his divine substance the race of humans” or “that we come from the natural order of things” is that of Midas (Alan Hawkridge). In one of the most energized scenes of this production, Hawkridge all but inflates in size as the businessman brags loudly about his self-made success and wealth — “Net worth: one hundred billion!” It’s as though, he says, everything he’s touched has turned to gold. “Not literally, of course — wouldn’t that be something?”
As we know, he eventually succumbs to the temptation for that to be literally so, despite being warned by Bacchus (Marc Tiberiis II). But reality is even more overwhelming than greed, he learns and laments, when his little daughter flings herself into his arms — “No!”
And so it goes. Lives are lived, blithely or stupidly, and lessons are learned. As above, the smugly happy are the broadest targets for change. Such as the young king and queen Alcyone (Leach) and Ceyx (Joshua Andrews). They “lived in a monotony of happiness,” until he had to voyage off for two months, despite her fear that the sea will swallow up his ship. Sure enough, a raging storm batters it down. He returns, but as a ghost, and she is angry at him for having left her. Love, then anger, then regret; sigh, repeat. We never learn. But “the gods are not altogether unkind — some prayers are answered,” we are reminded, as the couple end up as seabirds, mating and rearing their young forever.