Chicago Theater Review: POLAROID STORIES (First Floor Theater)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: POLAROID STORIES (First Floor Theater)

by Lawrence Bommer on November 22, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

LEGENDS OF THE HOMELESS

Alyssa Vera Ramos and Brandon Holmes in First Floor Theater’s production of POLAROID STORIES by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Hutch Pimentel.As the title suggests, Naomi Iizuka’s uncompromising drama exposes snapshots of the urban underbelly. It focuses, so to speak, on homeless kids, prostitutes and hustlers, and the occasional Greek hero or god, such as Orpheus and Eurydice, who wander very plausibly into their midst. As recorded by the playwright 16 years ago, each citizen has a story to tell, whether of impassioned survival, as a gay sex worker proclaims his refusal to “just get by,” or transformation, as these street souls exchange stories they heard second-hand which, of course, we know originated in Ovid’s metamorphoses.

A 1997 drama whose Polaroid Stories could work just as well as You Tube videos from the front, this grim and urgent two-hour two-act is already site-specific. The decaying church gymnasium near Belmont and Broadway (with its notoriously Kait Ziegler and Luke Grimes in First Floor Theater’s production of POLAROID STORIES by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Hutch Pimentel.lousy acoustics) is a ripe and  gritty backdrop, considering its proximity to throwaway and runaway youth, gay and straight, skinhead and minority, who find very conditional shelter in Lakeview.

The fact that nothing decisive happens here is the play’s perverse proof of authenticity. First Floor Theater’s mash-up of classical writing and city life feels seamless: Some things, like furtive or forbidden love, never change. It’s no stretch for these ten young actors, flailing flashlights as they move around our isolated seats in this fitfully lit space, to depict Echo, Narcissus, Philomel, Persephone, Semele, and Zeus, along with abandoned adolescents drifting into invisibility. Here stark confessionals from baby-faced pseudo-innocents about growing up hungry feed fantasies no younger than ancient Rome.

Shariba Rivers and Brandon Boler in First Floor Theater’s production of POLAROID STORIES by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Hutch Pimentel.Harking back to Walt Whitman’s pulsating catalogues of Manhattan’s pedestrian parades or the slum photos of Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lives or Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era lens, this is not your usual holiday show. Hutch Pimental’s street-smart staging in effect brings the outside in, with found props, a step ladder, the occasional video painting and a magically illuminated tree the only scenery to suggest a cityscape. Long ago, Chicago theater patented what one long-gone troupe called “the dumpster of the imagination.” It’s all grist for this mill: This prophecy/blast from the past grinds very fine.

Jenni Hadley in First Floor Theater’s production of POLAROID STORIES by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Hutch Pimentel.photos by Molly FitzMaurice

Polaroid Stories
First Floor Theater
Red Tape Theatre, 621 W. Belmont Ave.
scheduled to end on December 21, 2014
for tickets, visit http://firstfloortheater.com/

for info on this and other Chicago Theater,
visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

Comments on this entry are closed.