POLAROID STORIES, Trap Door Theatre. Playwright Naomi Iizuka’s grisly, haunting portrait of Minneapolis gutter punks would be significant if only for the fact that it’s one of the first plays to dramatically depict homelessness. And Iizuka resists the urge to sentimentalize her subject: her characters are shameful, self-absorbed, and destructive. Nor does she waste time with dull moralizing–there’s far too much to apologize for, since the wayward teens in Polaroid Stories are fucked-up on an epic scale.
Remarkably, Iizuka has also made her profile of misspent youth correspond with Greek mythology. Though she interviewed a group of Minneapolis vagrants for her 1997 piece, she wasn’t content to take a documentary-style approach, instead opting to fold elements from Ovid’s Metamorphoses into her cautionary tale. Narcissus becomes a self-infatuated gay hustler, Philomel’s songs of sorrow and forgetfulness fall on deaf ears, and Persephone acts as the de facto queen of this veritable kingdom of the dead.
A number of virtuoso performances–especially Derrick Nelson’s portrayal of Dionysus as a world-weary street poet and John Cabrera’s mesmerizing turn as Narcissus–make these characters’ struggles all the more vivid. Given the play’s fragmented structure and alienating intentions, Polaroid Stories could easily have strayed off course. But Kay Martinovich’s taut, detail-oriented staging avoids the potential pitfalls. Indeed, Martinovich and her superb cast have transformed Iizuka’s challenging script into two hours of potent, gripping drama. –Nick Green