Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Problems Between Sisters

DeJeanette Horne and Renee Elizabeth Wilson
Photo by Brittany DiLiberto
Folger Theatre in Washington is presenting a rapturous production of Metamorphoses, Mary Zimmerman's beautiful and insightful consideration of ancient myths of transformation. While the original stories date back to ancient Greece and Rome, as retold in Latin by Ovid in 8 C.E., director Psalmayene 24 has brought together a vividly talented all-Black cast and design elements that suggest African and Caribbean cultures.

The play, which won Zimmerman a 2002 Tony Award for her direction, uses these myths to examine growth and change in a deeply human way. Over the course of 90 minutes, the stories encompass many elements of life and death, ranging in tone from gentle, through snarky and horrifying, to overwhelmingly beautiful.

Water is a central theme in the work, and previous productions set the action in an onstage pool. That was not feasible in the Folger space, so the director has worked with his designers–Lawrence E. Moten III, scenic design; William K. D'Eugenio, lighting; and Mika Eubanks, costumes–to conjure up images of water. For example, a shining blue circle on the stage represents a pool, and most of the actors wear folkloric costumes in deep blues and greens.

Together, the 11 performers create up a world where gods appear in human guises and such concepts as hunger and sleep take literal form. The most arresting vision throughout is Miss Kitty as a water nymph who helps facilitate the action throughout. She never speaks but communicates through her body language, thickly braided hair, painted face, and bracelets that clatter as she moves her arms.

Jon Hudson Odom stands out in several roles, notably Midas, the king who learns that a love for gold is not truly love, and Orpheus, who defies death to rescue his beloved Eurydice (Billie Krishawn). Each member of the company has at least one standout moment, specifically Renee Elizabeth Wilson as Alcyone, whose husband is lost at sea but, with the help of the gods, finds closure and reunion; Edwin Brown as Phaeton, a bratty teenager annoyed with his father (the sun god); Renea S. Brown as tragic Myrrha; and Kalen Robinson as the daughter who helps Midas redeem himself.

While many of Eubanks' costumes are majestic, others are humorous. Iris, the goddess of rainbows, wears a sheer skirt in a blend of pastel colors and a sparkling pink crown, and Bacchus (Gerrad Alex Taylor) accessorizes his glittering white robe with a crown of flowers atop his Afro.

Ovid's poems and Zimmerman's adaptations of them use enchantment to share the unchanging truths of human life. The experience is as emotional for the audience as for the characters telling their stories.

Metamorphoses runs through June 16, 2024, at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-544-7077 or visit

By Mary Zimmerman
Based on the myths of Ovid, from the translation by David R. Slavitt
Directed by Psalmayene 24

Edwin Brown: Third Man/Phaeton and others
Renea S. Brown: Third Woman/Myrrha and others
DeJeanette Horne: First Man/Zeus and others
Yesenia Iglesias: First Woman/Aphrodite and others
Billie Krishawn: Second Woman/Eurydice and other
Manu Kumasi: Fourth Man/Vertumnus and others
Miss Kitty: Water Nymph
Jon Hudson Odom: Second Man/Midas and others
Kalen Robinson: Fourth Woman/Midas' Daughter and others
Gerrad Alex Taylor: Fifth Man/Bacchus and others
Renee Elizabeth Wilson: Fifth Woman/Alcyone and others