Language of Angels

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Scary, Haunting, Gorgeous

I first came across Naomi Iizuka when I read her drama Polaroid Stories, a beautiful and haunting amalgam of Greek myths retold through the eyes of street kids. Recently I decided to read another of her works; and I had heard that her play Language of Angels was also amazing. Loving Iizuka's work as I do, I had to have a look at it.

When I first read Polaroid Stories, I couldn't put it down. I remember I had gotten it on a sunny summer afternoon, and I ended up spending the entire day indoors because I needed to finish this play. My first reading of Language of Angels went exactly the same way. Set in a blue-collar town in the mountains, it is a memory play about the day when a group of kids go into a maze of caves to party. One of the girls, Celie, disappears'and her friends are unable to find her no matter how hard they, the police, and their parents look. Years later, the kids who partied with her are still haunted by the events of the evening.

Iizuka's writing in this play is gorgeous: poetic and razor-sharp at the same time. It transports reader and audience to a world where nothing is stable, nothing is certain, and the past obscures and colors the present like a dream. One scene in particular comes to mind here: a few girls are hanging out and drinking, and one of them, Danielle, is talking to a boy who looks very much like her dead boyfriend Tommy. After that scene we are unable to say whether Tommy is a ghost, or whether the girls are so haunted by their past that they are unable to have a firm grip on the present. The play goes back and forth in time without warning, leaving us with a slightly woozy feeling at the end like something hit us and we aren't quite sure what happened; but given the message at the center of the story, that is completely appropriate. We are left with the idea that the past never goes away. No matter how much we try to escape it, or even make our peace with it, it will still be there.

There are also several good monologues in this play, especially at the beginning: Act I opens with a beautiful one for a man which describes the caves and the woods surrounding them, and sets the scene for the rest of the play. There are also a couple good monologues for women as well. I am learning one of them right now, and I might tackle another after this one is finished. Then again, I might not'but only because I'll be too busy reading more of Iizuka's amazing plays.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 1:45 PM EDT | More details


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