Blind Pug Arts Collective’s remount of Naomi Iizuka’s dark and gritty Polaroid Stories delivers a gut-punch of love lost, violence, homelessness and addiction. Sure, it will kill your buzz and ruin your date night. Sometimes good theater does. And Polaroid Stories is brutally good.
Polaroid Stories intertwines the mythical and the temporal through a series of vignettes, each a snapshot of prostitutes, drug dealers, their unfortunate clients and their regrettable fates. Adapted in part from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the play uses Greek mythos to frame uncertain identities through a series of loosely connected subplots.
Dionysus (Sheen Mercado) serves as a malevolent chorus throughout, floating in and out of the lives of the drug-users he enables. Eurydice (Ariana Kruszewski) hops between lovers including the homeless G (Geoff Blizard) and Orpheus (Matt Meyers) in a failed attempt to escape her own gritty existence. A violent SKINHEADboy (Brandon Deane) struggles through drug addiction with his aptly-named girlfriend SKINHEADgirl (Andrea Parente), as does a pregnant Persephone (Jonelle Walker). Narcissus (Chris Carillo) wrestles with his emotions as a young prostitute and is appropriately shadowed throughout by the shy and grounded Echo (Annelies Van Vonno).
Thankfully, a textbook knowledge of Metamorphoses is not required for Polaroid Stories to have its effect. The objects of our attention are all deeply deluded, self-described “gods” among men who inevitably find themselves staring up from rock-bottom as their highs subside. Through some dynamic acting, the ensemble ensures this is an engaging progression and not simply a depressing freefall for everyone involved.
Dionysus, played by Sheen Mercado, is seductively cool, bringing depth to a drug lord riddled with self doubt. Brandon Deane’s SKINHEADboy and Andrea Parente’s SKINHEADgirl are a dynamic pair, as Deane’s physical presence and Parente’s moving delivery stand out amongst an entirely talented and committed cast.
by Naomi Iizuka
at Fort Fringe – The Shop
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Polaroid Stories‘ design is one without a consistent arc or plot to follow. As the play wears on, audience members once gripped by the action may find themselves emotionally exhausted with the closing scene still far away. The cadence of Iizuka’s writing and her heavy reliance on repetition can bleed from engaging into a sense of endlessness, grinding the audience down as it marches on into despair.
That may very well be the point. The play’s subjects are tired, depressed, down on their luck with no hope of reprieve from some cruel realities; so why should the audience get to leave feeling good?
Blind Pug’s ensemble doesn’t simply invite you to watch; they tie you by the ankle and drag you behind for the ride. The audience is left wanting less, not more, but only because the actors have done their jobs so very well. Steel yourself and strap in.
Polaroid Stories is a solid pick for anyone’s Fringe agenda.