Review: PlayMakers' pairing is must-see theater

CorrespondentNovember 11, 2013 

  • Details

    What: “Metamorphoses” and “The Tempest” presented by PlayMakers Repertory Co.

    Where: Paul Green Theatre, Center for Dramatic Art, UNC-Chapel Hill

    When: “Metamorphoses”: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, Nov. 21-22, 26-27 and Dec. 5-6; 2 p.m. Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and 7. “The Tempest”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 19-20, 24, 29, Dec. 3-4 and 7-8; 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 and Dec. 8.

    Tickets: $15-$50

    Info: 919-962-7529 or playmakersrep.org

PlayMakers Repertory Company marshals its considerable resources to make the pairing of “Metamorphoses” and “The Tempest” one of its finest offerings in recent seasons. A theme of life-changing events in the texts, along with several ideal pairings in the production team, make for two evenings of many stunning moments that will remain in memory long after seeing them.

A stage-sized pool with 15 tons of water is where the characters fight, take flight and make love. Jan Chambers and McKay Coble co-designed the elegant pool and three-story backdrop of balconies and doorways. They also co-designed the cleverly constructed costumes, from doublets and pantaloons to suits and negligees, which get soaked repeatedly and still allow for action. It’s all bathed in Marcus Dilliard’s glowing light design, the reflections often dazzling. Original music by Emma Nadeau and Ari Picker adds lovely underpinnings.

Although the pool dominates the eye, the actors hold their own under the affecting co-direction of Joseph Haj and Dominique Serrand, who admirably balance traditional and innovative staging, all in a satisfying flow.

MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Mary Zimmerman won a Tony for her adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” a collection of myths teaching lessons about life-altering decisions. A dozen actors play out these mostly familiar stories, mixing modern and classical styles. Jeffrey Blair Cornell’s cocky King Midas as corporate CEO and Nathaniel P. Claridad’s spoiled-brat Phaeton floating in an inner tube with a cocktail make witty contrast to the stark visions of Patrick McHugh as the shipwrecked King Ceyx and Maren Searle as his grieving wife and the forbidden love between Greg DeCandia’s King Cinyras and Carey Cox as daughter Myrrha.

The 90-minute production stimulates repeated chills, tears and laughter.

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” brings together lost children and warring brothers in a warmly happy ending. Prospero’s island suggests water, which here is used more sparingly than in “Metamorphoses” but significantly, especially in the delightful wooing of Brandon Garegnani’s innocent Ferdinand by Caroline Strange’s boldly curious Miranda, the water-play mimicking their exuberant attraction.

Three male roles are productively cast with women. Julie Fishell’s Prospero has just enough swagger, her lines beautifully enunciated and astutely characterized. Kathryn Hunter-Williams imbues King Alonzo with near-tragic character, while Julia Gibson makes the drunken Stephano truly hilarious. And Maren Searle makes the androgynous sprite Ariel wonderfully otherworldly.

Many fine performers go unnamed here but all contribute to the unity and depth that these productions provide. If you love live theater, see them both.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

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