REVIEW: Ovid’s Metamorphoses in a Modern Theatrical Adaptation by Mary Zimmerman

It’s always a pleasure to enjoy something you weren’t certain you would. I am usually unmoved by the classics, from Shakespeare to Homer to Woolf. They don’t translate to modern day values and speech, and they always seem to be written as densely as possible. Besides the lack of ease I face understanding these texts, their baffling popularity throughout great lengths of time–even millennia–is personally upsetting to me, and makes my annoyance all the more overpowering.

While adaptations of old texts usually fall short of capturing a modern audience’s interest, this one was well done. Where typically the author relies on flat jokes and cheesy costumes, Zimmerman simultaneously honored the poetry of Ovid’s great work and subtly brought it into the now with small script changes and stage directions that shone through to the present. The cast were careful not to overdo it, understanding that the purpose of the adaptation was not solely cheap comedy, but should reflect the philosopher’s original, complex ideas. When the stage light reflected in Sophie Thurschwell’s eyes as she gave a soliloquy for her dear lost Orpheus, I was struck by the raw drama she could call upon to recite her ancient lines. Both she and Maria Garcia Reyna were excellent in adding a high degree of emotion into their acting, and paired with their alto-range voices, they had the power to truly resonate beneath the skin.

Bryce Foley and Maria Garcia Reyna in “Pomona and Vertumnus”

I was especially impressed with the success of the myths that were on the more humorous side. Like I said, it’s so easy to get this wrong through overacting, or an overly modernized version of the original text. Bryce Foley was my favorite in this respect, remaining fully deadpan when acting as Hermes, spinning Eurydice over and over. His best myth was Pomona and Vertumnus, where he played a slew of different characters including a solider, farmer, fisher, and grandmother. While the opportunity for overacting here was present, he gracefully avoided doing so, instead allowing lower-key body movements to elaborate on his range of costumes.

The entire crew was excellent in incorporating an array of fabrics as props, which mesmerized under the lights. Iris’ glittering golden wings seemed to reflect and hide at the same time. The motion of the fabric waves dragged me into the stage like the physical tide, a rip current of blue organza. A ruffling cape was able to flip from black to red with each minute movement. I only wish they had used more fabrics in the choreographed sections, as Iris’ jaunt across the stage was enough evidence alone to support that endeavor.

My only real critique of the show has nothing to do with the script or acting, but the music played in the background of each myth. Most were surprisingly tacky considering the quality of the rest of the production, sounding like something out of a kids’ version of a King Arthur story. This sometimes distracted from the scene at hand, especially in the more emotional ones. Other than that, it was a first-rate performance, and I would encourage anyone to attend another of theirs in the future.

A few upcoming events for all interested in more great theatre:

RC Players’ Evening of Scenes–January 31 and February 1, 8PM Keene Theatre

We the PROUD’s “What Was and May Be”–February 14, Keene Theatre


Emma Pinchak

I'm just a lonely cowboy displaced in the city. I don't feel the same under these dim stars.

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