If you haven’t seen the revival production of Metamorphoses at Lookingglass, you have five days to get on your shit. Lookingglass has never failed to impress me and remind me why I love to make theatre. In fact, I might even say that it’s my favorite theatre company in Chicago. I was very pleased to see Metamorphoses under the circumstances I did, having already read the play for a class and seeing it in the current Lookingglass performance space on Michigan Avenue (where design elements were far less limited than the 90s production, I’m sure.) For me, the show was a slow and tantalizing climb to reach an emotional breaking point during the ninth and tenth stories of Eros and Psyche and of Baucis and Philemon, respectively. The last few minutes of the show are what really affected me, both from reading it and from watching it performed. I suppose it helped that I was, by that point, fully emerged in the storytelling of this incredible ensemble and allowed myself to trust the lessons they taught me. This is not to say that the first eight stories are of lesser quality – each scene was stupendous and I loved watching how the framing mechanisms of each played out.
The ensemble of ten was very strong. My particular favorites were Ashleigh Lathrop, playing Myrrha and others, and Patrick Andrews, who played Phaeton, Eros, and others. Lathrop seemed to be the least experienced actress of the bunch, judging from the program bios. Half the cast had performed Metamorphoses before either at Lookingglass or on Broadway. However, the physicality that she brought to the show was stupendous. As Midas’ daughter, I heard audience members audibly gasp when she turned to gold and she was able to maintain a statuesque frozen position while being dropped, lifted and carried about the stage. As Hunger and Myrrha, she performed beautiful movement sequences while being flipped and turned about in the pool. On the ride home, a friend with whom I had seen the show commented how distracting it was that she was black when the actors playing her fathers were white. I angrily retorted that it would have been a disservice to the theatre-going community to cast anyone less able than the very talented Lathrop.
I was also pleased with Patrick Andrews’ performance, as it was one of the more versatile. His comedic timing was impeccable as Phaeton and his grace as Eros was beyond beauty. I think I was particularly drawn to Andrews because I connected with him as the type of actor I aspire to be: truly powerful in his strength and conviction, yet able to step back from that to provide a witty, sarcastic, even sassy scene. I should also add that Patrick is an incredibly kind person (he choreographed We Three Lizas). I also may as well mention that he is without a doubt one of the most attractive actors on Chicago’s stages. I know that the gays from every corner of this city are hardcore crushing on him, so I suppose I’ll just admit that now and get it over with.
Anyway, back to Metamorphoses. I have always thought of Lookingglass productions as heavily involving the act of reimagining, whether that be reimagining how history has unfolded, reimagining an iconinc tale, reimagining the human experience, what have you. Metamorphoses surely reimagines the classic myths of Ovid in a way that contemporizes them without losing the potency of the ancient morals of love and trust. The part of the Lookingglass mission statement that most resonates with me is to create theatre that lets you “wake up where we first fell – changed, charged, and empowered.” I can say that in all my experiences at Lookingglass, I have never stood from my seat without having a sensation as if I’d just been on a long and emotional journey. Metamorphoses was no exception.
Mary Zimmerman is clearly a genius and I don’t know another way to say it. Her direction (an element I hardly notice, usually) shines through as the strength of this production. The styles of storytelling are incredibly eclectic, yet somehow coherent. Passive irony would turn quickly to elegant warmth in a matter of minutes and the transitions were so smooth that I didn’t even notice. Near the beginning of the show, I remember thinking, “This is great, but what made this the Tony award winner? What made this the magnum opus of Lookingglass thus far?” Thinking back on it, I find myself unable to describe a single flaw in the production. It was a perfect balance of simple and complex, fierce and gentle, anguished and hopeful. I am incredibly grateful that Lookingglass has brought this play back to its original home. I would love to see another production to compare, but I have a feeling that no company can live up to the beauty that is so specific to this company. Lookingglass knocked it out of the park. Again. Don’t miss this second chance.
Stay hot and keep it messy,