Monday, September 6, 2010

Metamorphoses, originated by Mary Zimmerman, Zach Theatre, August 5 - September 26

ALT reviewDavid Christopher, Metamorphoses, Zach Theatre

Call this the Cirque de Soleil approach to Greek myth.

From its 1996 origin at Northwestern University Mary Zimmerman's piece used a pool of water as its central metaphor -- suggesting the chaos at creation and both the life-giving and life-threatening qualities of water and the sea. At Northwestern the piece was staged next to and in an Olympic standard pool. The water setting was retained at the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago and at the Circle in the Square in New York, although those basins were shallower.

Blue Lapis Light aerialists at Metamorphoses Zach TheatreThe Zach Theatre expands that metaphor. First, by locating that pool in the circular space of the Whisenhut stage and surrounding it with a raised walkway, so that the water below the pool steps is relatively deep. Audience members in the first and second rows of that circular space are looking up at performers walking by. An occasional, unavoidable splash is sure to wet the nearest spectators. Dress accordingly. Those elements of the setting might be called "earth" and "water."

Second, for this staging director Dave Steakley provides us with "air" and "fire" as well. Austin's muscular, confident aerial dancers from Blue Lapis Light (Andy Agne, Margaret Carter, Stefania Tafuro and Will Zinser) regularly occupy the spaces above our heads, twisting and plunging with grace. The combination of Blair Hurry's witty, circus-gaudy costumes and dramatic, often unexpected lighting from Jason Amato moves action and effects into the higher spheres. The result is the pure, gorgeous spectacle of vivid athleticism, with only a couple of older players serving to contrast with all that youth.

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