Modernized Mythology With ‘Stories’

UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts Department of Drama presented Naomi Iizuka’s 1997 play, ‘Polaroid Stories,’ a modern interpretation of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphosis’ and Jim Goldberg’s ‘Raised by Wolves.’ As is the running theme with most of Iizuka’s plays, her nonlinear storyline shows the audience small vignettes of each character’s trials through transformation in terms of Greek and Roman myth. As fleeting as a Polaroid image, each section is a blurred section of light frozen in time. Throughout the play, the audience witnesses the pivotal and most cathartic moments in each character’s life.
Goldberg’s documentation of the homeless youth of San Francisco and Los Angeles from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s in ‘Raised by Wolves’ is evident in the dirt- and trash-laden streets of the play’s scenic design. Everyone’s unwanted junk lays strewn down the center of the theater, with the players on a sort of catwalk of eternity for a stage, showcasing the darkness of their psyches to the audience.
The actors are flawlessly in their element, each taking expert care to represent all the themes enveloping each Greek or Roman mythological persona. From the story of Narcissus and Echo to the complex subconscious of Dionysus and the story of Orpheus’ descent into Hades, each of the play’s themes connects with one another through the expertise of the players.
Aaron Williams, third-year Drama major, played the role of Narcissus. It was as if Dr. Frank N. Furter himself had let his little Rocky Horror run amok in Greek and Roman mythology, exhibiting the perfect rendition of man ‘with blond hair and a tan.’ This modern interpretation of Narcissus was as a raver; rocking gold diapers and glow stick jewelry, his energy was unfaltering. The king of gab, he is always talking about himself, one crazy story after another of something he had done and had lived to tell about.
As per the myth, Echo (drama major Laura Simms) is forever by his side, with her battered wings and matching glow sticks, her eyes perpetually gazing at Narcissus forever powdering his nose and fixing his hair in the mirror.
Omnipresent and all-powerful was the shift-changing Zeus played by second-year graduate student Benny Wills. His sunken eyes and booming voice show the audience a different side of this well-known god.
The wholly urban feel of dark, dank streets with buildings creaking and rusting, gave the theater the air of a miniature Gotham City, its inhabitants acting out their drugged out love stories. The titles to each section were projected onto a canvas with graffiti-style writing and an unfinished texture of dripping paint.
Their environment, the seemingly post-apocalyptic world now led by primal survival strategies, has disrupted their once-normal lives. Their fate leads them into quarrels which tear them apart. The play not only mirrors the violent quarrels and unmitigated love between gods and mortals but brings those themes down to a more accessible level.
The modern conception of life at the end of your rope is personified by Ariadne (graduate student Camelia Poespowidjojo). As the ‘Mistress of the Labyrinth,’ Poespowidjojo’s Ariadne is a bleached, mohawk-crowned tomboy whose seemingly repressed childish fears are forever gnawing at her psyche. Her transformation is essential to her character, a kind of letting oneself go with which we can all identify.
As with Ovid, the reader experiences the concept of transformation through each tale he tells, ultimately resulting in a mock epic about the creation and history of the world.
With a talented cast of undergraduate and graduate students, each player’s ability to delve into his or her character is what moves Iizuka’s play. They dance about, fight with (and for) one another and make love with everyone. The expert and innovative direction of Amanda McCraven was a crowd favorite and brought the play to full fruition. UCI’s productions are best when they reach the peak of off-kilter and quirkiness, as is exemplified with ‘Polaroid Stories.’