Woodrow Wilson High School
As a line from Stone Bridge High School's lush production of "Metamorphoses" puts it, "Myths are the earliest forms of science." Dreams juxtapose and make sense of reality; belief in the gods make us fully human. Derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Mary Zimmerman's immersive play centers a series of vignettes around the tension and harmony between mortality and divinity. With the cohesion of a committed ensemble and thoughtful, thoroughly realized creative elements, Stone Bridge's production wove together a tapestry of the elements of the human experience: hunger and loss; love and hope.
Rishi Mukherjee's Midas framed the play, his devastating greed and quest for atonement made resonant by a touching dynamic with Anne Treadwell, who played his daughter. As the anguished pair Alcyone and Ceyx, Ava Bueno and Nathan Good made a compelling case for the "mercy" of the gods. Meanwhile, the alluring Pomona (Brooke Premo, whose lively expressions created a character from little dialogue) and insatiable Erysichthon (Hunter Armentrout, highlighting the comedic aspect of a grotesque scenario with full commitment) illustrated why the gods loved or punished their subjects.
These gods reveled in nuances which often revealed striking humor. Natasha Adamson and Ruby Gau made memorable use of inflection and physicality to portray the drunken stupor of Bacchus and Silenus, respectively. This unexpected characterization introduced the audience to the flawed nature of the mighty beings. The various narrators throughout the play reflected oral tradition's centrality to human culture. As the audience's liaison with a surreal landscape of gods and mortals, the young women who took on those roles shone as present and engaged members of their scenes.
Water glistened as it flowed between flower strung columns, down a white deck saturated in the sun-soaked yellows and deep blue hues of the Mediterranean, and into a pool in which Psyche (Daniela Melgar) swam. Melgar emerged from the water, her hand-painted floral leotard soaked and her eye makeup flawless. This was just one instance in which the many original technical elements underscoring Stone Bridge's production converged to impressive effect. As a central framing device, Julia Knight, Olivia Smith, and Ava Bueno's costume design placed each vignette in a distinct and richly outfitted time period, from the Viking era to the 1970s. Throughout, gods and narrators remained in beautifully constructed Greek togas, emphasizing the constancy of myths and their morals in any era. From glitter accents to elaborate braided hairstyles, hair and makeup design added rich detail to each scenario imagined by the costuming team.
Actors swam in, ran over, stood upon, and emerged from Maia Ocampo, Amber Mongelli and Diana Altenhof's dynamic set. Having converted their mainstage into a black box, the immersive set thrust into the audience, creating a proscenium evocative of Greek amphitheaters. Sean Sorek, Leo Laykov, and Ryan Lignerfelt had the crucial role of executing sound cues as specific as the chime of Midas's steps turning cobblestones into gold. Technically complex and paired perfectly to each scene by genre and mood, James Good (who pulled double duty as an emotionally resonant Phaeton) and Ian Devenish's moving score echoed the emotional power of music emphasized throughout the vignettes, from Bacchus's drinking song to Apollo's chants.
From a changeable set to shifting aesthetics, to the tumultuous and ultimately fruitful transformation within its characters, Stone Bridge's production found increasingly magical and stirring ways to explore the titular metamorphoses.
Loudoun Valley High School
Baked shrimp and marshmallows! Salami and ice cream! Liver and donuts! "The godless are always hungry,'' the narrator solemnly reflects. Delightful acting, intricate costumes, and a set featuring a genuine pool of water: All of this was on the menu at Stone Bridge Theatre's mystical performance of Metamorphoses.
Metamorphoses originated in 8 AD as an epic poem by Roman author Ovid. Known as one of the most popular collections of myths, American author Mary Zimmerman chose her favorite stories and penned her adaptation in 1996. The show went on to premiere on Broadway in early 2002 and was blessed with three Tony Award nominations, and Zimmerman won the Tony for "Best Direction of a Play."
Due to the ephemeral nature of myths, this show's plot flows between many vignettes. The pool of nine stories ranges from King Midas's covetous collapse to Eros's silent seduction and reflects a message of the cosmic power of change throughout.
Stone Bridge transformed their performance space, constructing an intimate thrust setting on stage. Audience members surrounded the set on three sides while actors made use of eye-contact and physical closeness to make their stories palpable.
With a fierce spirit and focused energy, Diana Altenhof (narrator) chronicled the events of Erysichthon's destructive dealings. Her use of clear diction and projection created a simply divine on-stage presence. Hunter Armentrout's humorous take on the tragic tale showed the devolution of Erysichthon from haughty king to penniless and emaciated.
Clad in a heavenly white suit, Rishi Mukherjee as King Midas enlivened the audience. Mukherjee maintained a consistently high level of energy whilst conducting his slippery backwater dealings. Midas's enthrallment with money resonated strongly with the crowd, pointing a condemnatory finger at modern materialism. Simply put, his performance was pure gold.
James Good performing as Phaeton proved himself a true titan in the theatre. When reflecting on Phaeton's distance from his absent father, Good used careful choices with line delivery and varying levels of emotional intensity to bring unexpected relatability to these ancient narratives.
Elevating these golden performances, the show's technical elements were stellar. Student composed music by James Good created a unique and subtle aura surrounding character. Good drew inspiration from the music of Vikings, Medieval Europe, and Mississippi Delta Blues to match the varied time periods represented in the piece. Additionally, detailed hair and makeup (Kira King, Amber Schmitt) transformed teenage thespians into celestial beings. The intricate use of geometric shapes, coordinated color palettes, and even beards made of glitter connected to create distinct and memorable character airs. With more than 50 hair and makeup changes during the show, this production was blessed with an excellent crew (Juliana Viera, Katherine McCoy) to battle this monstrous task.
"Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths." Running Dog Productions bore their dreams last Friday night. Their fateful performances proved how stories can still move audiences two thousand years later.