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Review: ‘Polaroid Stories’ at WCC
REVIEW BY RYAN SENAGA / Special to Star-Advertiser
In 1997, award-winning playwright Naomi Iizuka interviewed a bunch of homeless teens and realized their stories reminded her of the gods and heroes of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”
So what do you get when you turn characters from Greek mythology into homeless drug addicts? A whole bunch of screaming f-bombs in “Polaroid Stories,” the result of Iizuka’s research.
Presented by Windward Community College
» Where: Paliku Theatre, 45-720 Keaahala Rd
Frankly, it’s a bit of a reach to connect Ovid to contemporary substance abuse and obscene street life, but to steal a few words from the man himself, director Taurie Kinoshita “completes the laborious work with inspired coelestial heat” for a four-performance run on stage at the beautiful Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College.
Iizuka sought to invert Ovid’s characterization of gods behaving like humans to tales of humans behaving like gods. In this sense, drug use and the god-like euphoria that comes with the high isn’t a huge leap of faith. But once the parallels start coming — Semele looking upon Zeus’s face and destroying herself, Orpheus being hastened to not turn around on his journey back to the upper world with Eurydice’s, Ariadne turning into a star — the conceit itself tends to lean unfortunately lean toward maudlin camp, especially when one is familiar with stepping over derelicts on the way to a club in Chinatown. God-like is the last thing you’d think of describing them as.
Still, the actors here admirably give it their all. Performed entirely by the school’s 260 theater students, the familiar Greeks are reimagined as convincingly gritty street kids living on a stage that is a desolate, litter-strewn, fenced-in urban landscape with Green Day, DJ Shadow and Social Distortion playing in the background. (A large screen behind the performers cues us to each specific portion of Ovid’s epic, eg. “Philomel’s Story: F*cked Up Love Songs”). Taking a line from the script, “This is where monsters live.”
Particularly fine are Jonathan (Fenix) Saavedra as Dionysus, or “D,” as the play calls him. He manages to hold the proceedings together with a thundering sort of leadership. Brandon Anthony DiPaola pours an intense rage into his storylines as Skinheadboy. Jennifer Clayton brings fragility to her Ariadne as she navigates the Labyrinth.
Christopher Michael Shimanoff gets to show off his guitar prowess as the musically gifted Orpheus, and Michael Childers brings on an appropriate self-love as Narcissus, now transformed into a raver boy. Nai’a Aguirre rocks pink hair and a lusty bravado as Eurydice.
Portions of “Polaroid Stories” are extremely challenging to follow, as the oral stories tend to ramble on in junkie-beat fashion, punctuated at almost every sentence by an expletive. One character intones, “Ain’t no such thing as a true story,” and in a sense, that line resounds because occasionally one isn’t sure which of Ovid’s storylines we’re on. Luckily the program offers a primer on Greek mythology for those whose knowledge on the subject is limited to “Clash of the Titans.”
But the heart of Kinoshita’s production is in the right place. The premiere on Thursday, March 21, featured a pre-show discussion on drug addiction and there are also pre-show lectures before the Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. to discuss Greek mythology and issues surrounding homelessness, respectively.
For a dash of Ovid with a jolt of bleak, contemporary drug addiction and homelessness, and the eventual redemptive force of love, “Polaroid Stories” is a daring college production.