Arts and Entertainment

VHS goes Greek with innovative play | Review

Elizabeth Staelhi, (left) playing Myrra, laments to Aphrodite, played by McCallie Moyer in “Meta-morphoses.” The Vashon High School play continues this weekend.  - Natalie Martin/Staff Photo
Elizabeth Staelhi, (left) playing Myrra, laments to Aphrodite, played by McCallie Moyer in “Meta-morphoses.” The Vashon High School play continues this weekend.
— image credit: Natalie Martin/Staff Photo

For The Beachcomber

Vashon High School thespians launched their new theater last Friday night appropriately and elegantly with American playwright Mary Zimmerman’s version of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” An ambitious work directed by Stephen Floyd, this play showcased a talented cast of 22 young actors who made each myth — 11 vignettes in all — leap from page to stage with well-rehearsed ease.

Entering the new theater, dramatically lit by designer Josh Randall, one finds the first indication of a well-thought out production. A pool complete with trickling stream provides a focal point for the imaginative set designed by Phil Dunn. Representing a stormy ocean, the underworld, a pond and the River Styx, the impressive water element adds depth and perspective to each story.

Without giving away all the creative, sometimes surprising treatments of the vignettes, here are a few peeks into the mythological realm of “Metamorphoses.” The young actors and actresses handled these sometimes complex myths — which are meant to reveal truths about human nature — with talent and maturity beyond their years, making for a show that is a deviation from the average high school play, but is a compelling and thoughtful performance from start to finish.

“The Creation” sets the tone for the show as Zeus, played by Isabelle Porter, explains how order came to the world while two laundresses, Chelsea Griffith and Jessica Johnson, further elaborate as they work at river’s edge. Ellie Bacchus is the lovely supplicant and McCallie Moyer convincingly plays her role as a scientist.

The story of “Midas” brings flawless narration by Jessica Johnson with Devan Barnes as the quintessential, rich King Midas. Drunken Silenus, well-played by Alexander Wright, tells Midas about a way to obtain eternal life. Midas shelters a sleeping Silenus until Bacchus (Rodolfo Flores) comes for him. Grateful for Midas’ hospitality, Bacchus grants Midas his one wish, but everything goes terribly wrong.

Narrator Jessica Johnson shines again conveying the tragic love story of “Alcyone and Ceyx.” Here the water feature comes into play in a big way. When King Ceyx (Alexander Wright) heads out to sea, despite his wife Alcyone’s (Hannah Fellbaum) warnings, he dies at the hands of Poseidon (Isabelle Porter) and her raincoat-clad henchmen, Ellie Bacchus and Tess Carman. Sleep, played perfectly by Max Lopuszynski, is awakened by Iris the rainbow (Lizzie Staehli) and Victora Trujillo, who makes her first appearance as the goddess Lucina before the lovers are reunited in a surprise way.

Narrator Joy Ghigleri tells us the story of “Erysichthon,” a godless man played to a tee by Max Lopuszynski, who thoughtlessly chops down Cere’s sacred tree. Who would guess a simple tree, enacted by Aruna Tuller-Ross, could be portrayed so beautifully? Angry, Ceres (Sydney Spencer) commands the spirit Hunger (Olivia Mangione) to give Erysichthon an insatiable appetite, revealing what greed can cause a person to do.

In “Orpheus and Eurydice,” another tragic love story is beautifully portrayed. When Orpheus (Devin Barnes) and Eurydice (Jevne Meyers) marry, Eurydice dies on their wedding day. Devastated, Orpheus appeals to Hades (Ellie Bacchus) to return his wife. Hades agrees if Orpheus leads Eurydice, but Orpheus must not look back at her. The scene ends with wonderful effect.

“Phaeton,” comically played by Zach Oriel, puts a modern twist on the son of Apollo. He explains the nature of his relationship with father Apollo to his bespectacled therapist (Isabelle Porter). Lopuszynski makes another appearance to finish the tale.

“Eros and Psyche” offers Olivia Mangione as Psyche, the opportunity to share her acting acumen with the ever-graceful Rodolfo Flores as Eros. Sydney Spencer and Ellie Bacchus narrate this creative and beautifully rendered love story.

Last, “Baucis and Philemon” tells of Zeus and Hermes, played by Isabelle Porter and Alexander Wright, who disguise themselves as beggars. As any who has read a Greek myth knows, when the gods play tricks on the humans, it is in service of both punishment and redemption. Floyd’s masterful treatment of this final scene is well worth the price of admission.

Musical selections vary widely throughout the play, and “Metamorphoses” is truly a multi-sensory experience not to be missed.

— Janice Randall is a writer, theater artist, former director of communications and performing arts for Vashon Allied Arts and current director of communications for Seattle Plymouth Congregational Church.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $10 and $5, are available at the Vashon Bookshop and at the door.

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