How do you update a centuries-old classic? Works by Shakespeare, Aristophanes, and others still stand on their own, but can reveal new truths and be made more accessible through adjustments in timeframe and location, mash-ups with new works, and other innovations. Some work, some don’t.
A Noise Within wins big metamorphoses. The Pasadena Theater Company takes something loved and familiar – Ovid’s masterpiece – and gives it a resonant update. Ambitious and bold, it has the courage to challenge the work to prove its continued relevance and is more than up to the challenge.
This production, which features an actual swimming pool on stage, was originally conceived by Maria Zimmerman In 1998; a quarter of a century later, it still feels fresh. That metamorphoses presents Ovid’s myths with direct updates and parallels for today – and lots of water. Ovid retold what was already a classic 2,000 years ago and in turn inspired Shakespeare, Dante and others. Similarly, these retellings will inspire future generations of theater makers. As noted in the production, myths are public dreams.
Myths tell stories of change – from human to tree, from unenlightened to painfully aware, even from alive to dead and back again. Water is also constantly changing: it can be refreshing and life-giving or scary and deadly. So there is a poetic beauty in locating Ovid’s myths in and around water, as Zimmerman envisioned and so spectacularly presents A Noise Within on his impressive reciprocating stage.
A large swimming pool covers most of this stage. Its waters are used literally as the origin of life on earth, as a sink, ocean, River Styx and even a swimming pool, and metaphorically for cleaning, quenching and nourishing.
metamorphoses takes ancient archetypes and the morals they represent and populates them on stage (and in the pool) in highly regarded and deeply moving chapters. Nine talented resident actors take on 85 roles in six myths, including Midas (Geoff Elliott), Iris (Nicole Javier), Alcyone (Trisha Miller), Ceyx (DeJuan Christopher), Aphrodite (Sydney A. Mason), Orpheus (Rafael Goldsten) . and Eurydice (Erika Soto), Lcina (Cassandra Marie Murphy) and dozens more. Many are modernized, like jaded rich kid Phaeton (Kasey Mahaffy) who undergoes therapy.
All actors shine in their diverse roles under the masterful direction of Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. All aspects of the production are first class, with special credit from production manager Adam Matthew and stunning set, costume and lighting design by Francois-Pierre Couture, Garry Lennon and Ken Booth respectively.
metamorphoses runs at A noise inside, 3352 E Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, through June 5th. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30am (darkness May 19), Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. tickets are $25-79. There will be post-performance talkbacks with the artists on May 27th and June 3rd and a discussion group, The insiders, on May 24 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A Noise Within has also announced his Season 2022-23.