When Mary Zimmerman returns to Arena Stage this February, it will be to remount her production of Metamorphoses with many of the same cast members and the design team that helped her win a Tony Award for her direction in 2002. Yet Washington audiences will get to see this famous work in slightly new way: Until now, Zimmerman has never presented her play in the round, as she will at Arena’s Fichandler Stage this season. Via email, Zimmerman says it’s “the most radical adjustment in staging it has ever gone through—in 14 years.”
Based on David Slavitt’s translation of Ovid’s Roman myths, Metamorphoses is written as a series of poetic vignettes played out in a vast pool of water. These classic tales, told with a modern sensibility, explore how we live at the mercy of forces of change and the sorrow or joy they can bring. The venue switch could help enhance some of that emotional rawness. “We will be a bit more naked in the Fichandler,” Zimmerman writes, adding, “One is really deeply exposed in that place, available to the eye from all angles … I feel the actors are really just out there in the Fichandler with nothing but the water and the audience and themselves.”
But while the round does vaguely evoke imperial Rome, it makes at least one critical update. “I suppose one could liken being in the round this way to being in the Roman Coliseum,” writes Zimmerman, “but with fewer lions.” $40–$70.