Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths. Those words of Joseph Campbell are quoted in Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” and they hit me square in the middle of where I live and imagine. I saw this production just now at Berkeley Rep, and I will go back again with Conrad on Wednesday. He intended to go with me, but was slammed with illness in the morning and literally spent the whole day on the couch, with and without cat-covering. I tried to look pitiful outside the theatre and get somebody to buy a ticket from me instead of from the box office, but no luck.
In spite of the hefty price, I came back with a huge jones to see it again, this time with Conrad beside me. We each have a private weekly allowance with no accounting or justification involved, and I had a pretty good stash accumulated. I offered to blow it all on another pair of tickets; that’s how much seeing this again with him means to me. He sensibly said OK, but we do have an annual budget, we should just use it. So we’re going together.
Water. The center of the stage is a big pentagonal pool of water, surrounded by an elevated rim wide enough to walk on. Berkeley Rep is an odd-shaped space with audience in magnificently arbitrary blocks climbing a steep slant from the stage, wrapping almost halfway around. Every seat is a close seat. The front rows are, of course, way close, and in this production, way wet. Towels are provided.
What an image. A grown man in a business suit, barefoot, sits in an elaborate formal chair that happens to be placed in the pool. Midas. The billionaire who has it all and desperately needs more, sitting in absurd isolation with his feet in the water. Later, Cupid and Psyche make love on a red velvet inflated mattress in the middle of the water, and chorus members bring many wide shallow bowls of candles so that their bed is surrounded by floating light.
Floating, splashing, drowning, soggy, the characters of this public dream are always dealing with what we all must have, the element that is currently drowning Nebraska and Iowa. It’s metaphor made manifest, a power unexpectedly experienced when your car drives over low-lying water and gets wrenched in a direction you didn’t plan.
Life is big and wet and powerful, and we fondly imagine we can channel and control it. This public dream walks us through memorable stories of our collective foolishness, with respect and affection.