It would be very easy to pan Tales from Ovid (playing at the Centaur Theatre until April 3), but I'm going to try my best not to. Adapted for the stage by director Chris Abraham and his artistic company from the Ted Hughes poem of the same name, the play presents selected myths from Ovid's Metamorphosis. And while, yes, it was recited almost entirely in verse; and, yes, the actors were all painfully recent theatre grads . . . well, nevertheless, the play had its moments.
The myths are mostly familiar ones (Adonis: not just a supermarket) and Hughes' poetry renders them perfectly. The first few scenes are a bit awkward - they're told too literally, with too much armour - but the play as a whole has a great rhythm to it. It starts slowly, moves with good momentum into more modern adaptations and closes gently with the most poignant myths last. The ensemble cast, led by Trent Pardy and Dalal Badr, were all committed, each with their own stage presence.
Unfortunately, it's those energetic actors with their theatre-school drawls (elongating every throaty syllable) that give the play its amateur feel. The play was first staged at the National Theatre School as a graduating assignment and it still feels like one. Much of the press for the production boasts about the collaboration between the NTS and the Centaur - and, indeed, the concept is one to be proud of. What better way to bring innovation to an established theatre's season than by infusing new ideas and talent? The problem here, though, is that despite the money that was put in (somebody give the prop mistress an award-she certainly was busy!), Tales from Ovid still feels like the end-of-year project that it was.
In the end, I will admit that I enjoyed my Centaur evening. Riding the metro home, my friend and I relived some of our favourite scenes: Poor Myrra in love with her own father! Lucky Pygmalion with that nice ivory woman! And, much to the probable dismay of our fellow transit-riders, we practised our theatre-student voices: "Oh child of my loins!" we shouted, "Oh love! Oh life!" Really, who wouldn't want an evening that ended like that?
For tickets, call (514) 288-3161 or visit www.centaurtheatre.com.