Metamorphoses at the Guthrie Theater


My first experience with the play Metamorphoses was in college during one of my Dramatic Literature and Theater History classes. It’s one of those weird memories that for some reason I always remember and it involved my professor telling all of us that if a theatre company ever did this play to go and see it. Don’t think about it - just go see it. We all inquired what made this play so special and he simply stated that the actors performed around a pool of water. We promised we would and now the Guthrie and Berkeley Rep. were able to help me keep that promise.

Metamorphoses is a play that features a multitude of short vignettes over the course of 90 minutes. The play, written and directed by Tony-Award winning Mary Zimmerman, was adapted from the classic Ovid poem. Each story has to do with the simple concept of change. Whether it’s the taking or giving of life or changing one's appearance. All of these stories are told around a pool of water for which water is the most prominent character in the show, so to speak.

This production comes with many learning opportunities for audience members. While we are introduced to a new classical script and a multitude of actors who all are making their Guthrie debut, audiences learn about co-productions. Special shout out to the Guthrie for also being one of the best theatres in town when it comes to putting together dramaturgical information in their programs. This co-production, between the Guthrie and Berkley Rep, has been in the works since last year. The show closed this past March in Berkley and immediately the next day started production at the Guthrie.

The beautiful thing about this script is the model for which it was written. It isn’t a standard formula of a play with a linear story line. It’s different, unknown and experimental. Zimmerman writes each story to flow from one to the next so easily. Audience members can easily understand each story, the characters and the meaning behind them.

While the set’s most prominent piece is the giant pool in the center of the Wurtele Thrust Stage, I often found it to be a character in it’s own. Water is so versatile in life and certainly is in this production as well. It can emotional and violent at times as it crashes onto different performers while at other times it’s calm and still almost like glass. This 1,500 gallon pool of water makes this show so unique and mesmerizing to watch.

I never thought that something as simple as water could elevate a show to this caliber. My particular favorite part about it was the sound it made. Sound is something we take for granted sometimes due to the incredible work that sound designers create however when was the last time you saw a show where a majority of the sound was from one single set piece?

Each performer is incredible in their own and unique ways. While everyone plays multiple characters throughout the show, everyone still manages to have the spotlight at least once. My favorite was Lisa Tejero who starts the show as a bit of a narrator. Her ability to tell us a story and captivate us from the moment the show started was incredible.

Truly this production of Metamorphoses is storytelling at its finest. It’s experiential, it’s different and unique. Normally I’m not the biggest fan of classical works however this play quickly shot up to the top of my list. It’s beautifully crafted, brilliantly written and wonderfully told by a group of incredible storytellers.

Metamorphoses runs at the Guthrie now through May 19.

TheaterBrett Burger2019