Ask Carol Cross, managing director of Axolotl Productions, to explain the meaning of her multimedia performance company's quirky name, and she'll answer you effortlessly: "An axolotl is a brilliant blue salamander found in Central America. It played a role in ancient mythology. It can change its internal structure to adapt to the demands of its environment. It can change colors, too. It's both exotic and spiritual."

Exotic and spiritual: two words that describe the show Axolotl is doing Friday and Saturday nights at 8 at George Washington University's Marvin Center Theatre. The company's founder (and for several years its artistic director) was Jack Guidone, a Washington artist who died last year of AIDS. Cross says it's been tough personally and professionally since Guidone's death -- the company is struggling to establish a new identity while still retaining its founder's original philosophy. "Metamorphosis was a big theme in Jack's work, especially the idea of masks transforming art." Guidone was a lover and maker of masks, and their presence was integral to many of his theatrical works.

"Metamorphosis," a multimedia collaborative tribute to Guidone, will be presented by a cross-section of Washington performance artists, including the world premiere of the theater piece "Immunity" by actor-playwright T.J. Edwards. Other pieces will be by dancer and improvisational artist Michelle Ava, the dance company Upright Vertebrates, musician Zach Swagger, video artists Video Free Earth, photographer Michael Hauptschein and vocal ensemble D.C. Cabaret.

Tickets are available at Backstage (775-1488), Joy of Motion Dance Center (387-0911) and Marvin Center Theatre, and are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. All proceeds will go toward creating an artwork in memory of artists who have died of AIDS. For further information call 293-7050.