Production: "Scenes from the Metamorphoses"
Date: Oct. 28, 2021to Oct. 31, 2021
Director: Tiffani Hagan
Runtime: 2 hours
Columnist’s rating: A-
By dramatizing Ovid’s epic poem "The Metamorphoses," director and playwright Mary Zimmerman made way for a new mode of enjoying Greek classics: contemporary drama.
In the production, the audience saw all, from King Midas on his cell phone to Poseidon singing sea shanties. Zimmerman puts an anachronistic twist on the well-loved but drawn-out stories with which we are all familiar.
Tiffani Hagan, a theater graduate student, directed USC’s production of "Scenes from the Metamorphoses," and with only seven cast members, the versatility of every single person involved was made apparent. The show was held in the Lab Theatre, creating an intimate environment with chairs close to the stage.
The play begins with a monologue of a woman over a bucket of water begging for change, and then shifts to a sharp businessman on his phone with a secretary watching his every move. We learn this is King Midas, and it somehow just makes sense.
Placing this modern spin on the notorious tale of Midas was the first hook into the show and the first hint that it wasn’t going to be a typical drama. The idiosyncratic retelling of the story gave it charm and kept the audience watching. The narrators of the story who sat in the background clashed hand cymbals as Midas walked, adding another layer of simple ingenuity to the production.
In the tale of Erysichthon, the representation of Hunger crawling out of the darkness as if to touch the audience, helped invest the audience in what was happening in front of them. Watching her consume the embodiment of Greed and forcing him to eat himself alive was captivating and added a darker twist to juxtapose the hilarity that occurs previously in the play.
In the production, Apollo’s son Phaeton spends all his time whining about his life to his therapist, which prompted lots of laughter from the audience. Phaeton sits on a pool float, reminiscent of the original intent of the play to be performed in and around a pool, and speaks about his relationship with his father, resulting in psychoanalysis from his therapist.
Phaeton’s time with his therapist gives two of the best quotes: “Myths are the earliest form of science,” and “Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths.” These added a depth to the rest of the play that wasn’t previously there. It rounded out the show and catches one off-guard after hearing Phaeton’s melodrama.
The show ends with the revisit of Midas’ tale, finally achieving what Bacchus instructed him to do and able to hold his living daughter again. It ended the show perfectly on a good note after many tragic tales of change, and the audience seemed to all agree with roaring applause, loud for a theater only accommodating approximately 30 people.
The musical score was a major factor in the production's anachronistic nature. In the tale of Eros and Psyche, a song by pop artist Halsey played, but at the height of Orpheus and Eurydice’s wedding, Bach’s "Air on the G String" played. These songs aren’t characteristic of Greek mythology, but the blending of old and new alongside change is the theme of the show, and the eccentric music choice solidifies that.
The show was a wonderfully directed blend of love, hilarity, tragedy and truth and was beautifully and gracefully delivered by the small cast. The tales told were brought to life more so than one would find in any literature class and would most likely appeal to most, even those who claim to hate classical literature and Greek mythology.