By Andrea Warner
Based on Ovid’s poem of the same name, Metamorphoses packs 13 myths into 85 minutes — an infinitely more entertaining and intelligent approach than your average copy of CliffsNotes. It captivated New York audiences with its modern adaptation of classic stories, winning a Best Director Tony award in 2002.
It’s a tough and challenging play, but director Christine Willes gets the majority of her young cast to meet the challenge with the ferocity of a scorned Aphrodite. That is to say, these kids are kicking ass and taking names — and they mostly do it all soaking wet.
It’s impossible to talk further about the actors’ portrayals without first discussing the inventive and seemingly impossible requirement of a medium-sized, freestanding, three-foot-tall kiddie pool at the centre of the raised wooden octagon that serves as the stage. The pool is filled with real water, and the actors move in, out, and through it with gusto, so keep in mind that there is a general splash zone of the first two rows on either side of the room. The presence and utilization of the water never feels gimmicky, either; it’s a dynamic force that adapts with remarkable ease to every myth.
Tasked with the challenge of bringing iconic characters to life, sometimes in as little as 45 seconds, the cast is composed of recent grads of the William Davis Centre. There are only 10 actors for 85 parts, so there’s a minimal amount of time to make an impact with the audience, yet several performances resonate deeply.
Of the actors who show the most promise, Chris Ireland proves he’s far more than a pretty, chiseled face within the first five minutes, as his brooding and greedy King Midas storms the stage. Robert Tadashi is magnificent as Cinyras, father of Michelle Kim’s Myrrah, who is punished by Aphrodite to lust after and seduce dear ol’ dad. Kim delves deep to bring Myrrah’s conflicting sides out under the magnifying glass of human judgment — she knows her desire is wrong, yet Kim brings such sensuality to their love scenes, one can’t help but be lost in the uncomfortable moment.
Metamorphoses’ own Achilles heel is the amount of time spent on Orpheus and Eurydice, the couple who must battle the underworld — and trust — to be reunited. Whereas most of the other segments breeze along with little dawdling, this myth gets treated to two interpretations, and it stalls the momentum. At times, the line deliveries also feel rushed, like perhaps the actor reading the material doesn’t fully understand the impact a pause or even a gesture would make in manipulating the dialogue’s context.
Think of Metamorphoses as Speed Greek, brought to you by the next generation of Vancouver theatre stars. These are mere mortals disguised as gods, and the transformation is almost flawless.
To Aug. 16 at Pacific Theatre (1420 W. 12th), 8 p.m. (Thurs.) and 7 & 9:30 p.m. (Fri.-Sat.). Tickets $18-$25 from Biz Books (302 Cordova) and PacificTheatre.org