Metamorphoses – Friends Select School

Friends Select - Metamorphoses2.jpg

Metamorphoses by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Hanna Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

A single droplet can stir a sea, a single misstep can transform a life. Far too often we overlook the ripples we create and the tales we incite. Friends Select’s Metamorphoses is a beautiful reminder of human nature in the most human form, storytelling.

Written by Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses is composed of a series of vignettes based on the poems of Ovid. This unique work premiered in 1996 and opened on Broadway in 2002. Though each classical myth distinctly tells its own familiar tale, they seamlessly weave together with expert storytelling, compelling characters, and a mesmerizing pool of water.

A non-linear storyline seems difficult to pull off, but Friends Select’s Metamorphoses skillfully kept the audience engaged throughout the play. Though some lines were lost due to weak diction, the actors expertly displayed their versatility by portraying multiple characters and bringing emphatic emotion to every role. The heavy, contemplative aspects of the play were well-balanced with light comedic scenes and witty characterizations, leaving the audience both deep in melancholy thought and thoroughly amused.

Olivia Shuman’s portrayal of the greedy King Midas was perfectly self-affected and playfully humorous. Perhaps one of the most compelling and emotionally stirring performances was that of Sara Kelley. Kelley beautifully embodied the pure anguish and heartbroken denial of Alcyone and captured the strenuous labor turned to hopeful love of Psyche.

Every actor took on numerous roles and shined in various ways. Elena Milliken brought sweet sincerity to the stage as the daughter of Midas, Eurydice, and the inquisitive Q. Kaiyuan Chen crept across the stage sending shivers throughout the audience as the macabre Hunger and Claire McHarg delivered much-needed hilarity to the play as the petulant Phaeton.

The striking costumes were both designed and created by Isabella Iannozzi. Each piece of clothing brought the essence of the characters to life, from the skeletal suit of Hunger to Iris’ glowing skirt. Freeman Rabb impressively composed all of the music for the production. His accomplished work both polished the transitions and enhanced the emotion of the narrative. At the heart of the play was a pool of water built onto the stage. Not only was the pool integral to the telling of each myth, but the water on stage served to consolidate the stories with irresistible harmony.

With simple beauty, Friends Select’s Metamorphoses breathed life into timeless stories resonant with human frailty and understanding, reminding us that “wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.


Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

A timeless tale of transformations, Metamorphoses is the story of the human condition. At the Friends Select School, this collection of ancient myths was revived in a modern theatrical production.

The origins of Metamorphoses date back to Ovid, who wrote a narrative poem, comprised of over 250 Greek and Roman myths, chronicling the history of the world and the transformations of man. The stories have been told and retold for centuries, and are still beloved by readers today. The script was first written and directed by Mary Zimmerman and premiered in 1996.

The story meanders through nine different tales, unrelated to each other in plot, but connected by common themes such as love, hubris, and a central pool of water. The myths vary greatly in length and tone, together bringing humor, heartbreak, and philosophy to the stage. While the set was minimal, the student-built pool played a vital role as a symbolic and interactive space for each scene. The actors wove on and off, switching smoothly from one character to the next.

Olivia Shuman performed a more modern take on King Midas in the first myth, and reappeared again at the end of the show, when the king finally cleansed himself of his curse and embraced his daughter. Yannick Haynes played a regal Hermes in two separate myths, but he truly shone in his role as the headstrong Ceyx. Sara Kelley gave a captivating performance as the distraught Alcyone, then went on to become the sweet Psyche, whose chemistry with Eros (Freeman Rabb) was tangible. Each of them appeared as various other characters as well, while some actors followed a single archetype throughout the show. Elena Milliken played myriad different characters, but always embodied an innocent young girl.

The tales of Ovid are ancient, but they were kept entertaining and relevant by actors such as Claire McHarg, playing a resentful Phaeton, and Annalise Shuman as his father Apollo. Michaela Fineman’s lovable awkwardness brought a light-hearted air to the story of Pomona and Vertumnus. Many of the actors contributed to behind-the-scenes work as well. Kaiyuan Chen made an ethereal, chilling Hunger, and offstage he worked as a stage manager with Margo Latty. Freeman Rabb appeared as several different gods, and also composed and recorded a compelling score, while Claire McHarg arranged a vocal interlude. The costumes, created by Isabella Iannozzi, reflected the show’s simplistic story-telling and attention to detail, and they also adapted nicely to the added challenge of submersion in water.

The show as a whole was striking and thought-provoking in its imagery and symbolism, while remaining light-hearted and genuine. Stories that have been passed down for generations were beautifully depicted by the students at Friends Select School.

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