Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Polaroid Stories"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth

"Polaroid Stories"

Reviewed by Sheila Barth

Some snapshots in time are unforgettable Kodak moments- a time to savor, to cherish. They leave indelible imprints on one’s mind and soul.

Like one-time aim-and-shoot Polaroid instant images, playwright Naomi Iizuka has combined stories, characters and themes from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” with sordid, ugly tales of today’s street kids living on the edge, searching desperately for love, but embracing self-destruction instead, through exploitation, violence, and desperation. Iizuka insists there’s a parallel between Ovid’s bewitched, bothered and bewildered youth and today’s misled kids, influenced by decadence, driven by homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, lying, prostitution, and murder.

While Ovid’s world included enticing gods spinning magical plots, both ancient and modern youth have been destroyed by tantalizing adults and powerful potions, drugs and drink. Some things never change.

Three talented fringe theater companies, Heart & Dagger Productions, Happy Medium Theatre Inc. and Boston Actors Theater, have joined hands, amassing some of Boston’s best-known actors and technicians, in their production of Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories,” appearing at the Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre through July 14.

The North End’s Joey C. Pelletie (Heart & Dagger’s artistic director) and Elise Weiner Wulff (Heart & Dagger artistic associate) co-direct and co-choreograph this 1997, 2-1/2-hour presentation that isn’t a play, but a shotgun blast of loosely related episodes, part allegorical, but intensely realistic. Some characters’ faces sparkle with glitter, while others are animated by dramatic, raw emotion. They’re junkies, speed freaks, drunks, and God knows what else, garbed in Wulff and Mikey DiLoreto’s ragged, street-worn, funky costumes and wigs.

The large cast of 17, with its modern and ancient counterparts and mixed metaphoric names, love, leave and deceive each other, tormenting and tossing each other around between scene blackouts. “Let the battle begin,” the announcer says.

Tony Knapp’s crackling sound effects and Michael Clark Wonson’s startling lighting enhance bizarre storytelling episodes.

The ensemble enters the blacked-out theater, circling and criss-crossing each other like a frenzied school of sharks ready to pounce on its prey. “My name is .....,” each one intones. In the center is a toilet, perhaps symbolic of their lives being flushed away, wasted. It’s the ideal hideaway for the devil’s drug stash, too.

In Act II, the group’s cacophonous turbulence lowers to a lament: “I knew a person who........,” inciting a memorial to damned youths whose lives were taken away too soon.

F-bombs drop too frequently, dulling their effect. While some love scenes are tender, most are oftentimes driven by violence. It’s like being slammed by a sledgehammer repeatedly, rendered senseless.

But - every character is stirring. East Boston‘s Mikey DiLoreto (co-founder of Happy Medium Theatre and artistic associate of Heart & Dagger Productions), as bespectacled,evil D (for Devil), screams he’s a god, while luring youths to drugs, decadence, and the depths of hell.

Danielle Leeber Lucas as Philomel, garbed in white innocence, sings sweetly, hauntingly. Her dress is blood-stained later, after her tongue is cut out; but her wandering persists.

Pretty Melissa DeJesus as Eurydice is loved by Orpheus (Luke Murtha), but calls herself “Disappear”. “I’ve drunk from the river of forgetfulness,” she says.

As they crouch behind a police-taped barrier, he declares his love for her, while swilling from a silver flask. Muscular Jesse Wood also woos Eurydice, but she’s wary, distrusting.

She later meets Orpheus, again, following him. “Don’t turn around,” she instructs, failing to warn him about the knife she’s plunging in his back.

Brassy Persephone (Kiki Samko) is disgusted with men. Framing her face in a wooden picture frame, she relates her sordid story, rationalizing her guilt, which haunts her.

And handsome Narcissus (Michael Underhill), is bitterly consumed by his physical beauty, as plain Echo (Elizabeth Battey) follows him, worshipping and repeating his every word.

Robyn Linden as Semele, whose doubt destroyed her, and Sean A. Cote as Adam and Morpheus, add their brand of hopelessness.

Then, too, Skinhead Boy (Michael Caminiti) and his girlfriend, Skinhead Girl (Erin Rae Zalaski), fall under D’s spell, sharing and stealing his drug stash from the toilet tank, thus invoking his wrath. (This week only, ensemble member Amy Meyer replaces Zalaski, who returns July 19-22).

Ensemble members Denise Drago, Lauren Elias, Nicole Howard, Kate Shanahan and Sarah Sixt round out this intense cast.

BOX INFO: Two-act, 2-1/2 hour presentation, written by Naomi Iizuka, presented by Heart & Dagger Productions, Happy Medium Theatre Inc. and Boston Actors Theater, through July 14 at the Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances:Wednesday, July 11 (Industry Night, $5), and Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: adults, $20; seniors, students, $15. Not recommended for under 15-year-olds. Graphic violence, drug use, mature language and sexual themes.

"Polaroid Stories" (14 July)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

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