Chalk One up for Theatre B’s ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 09:02
Theatre B has a highlight of its season on its hands with the production of Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries.” Chronicling the somewhat acidic but rock solid friendship of two childhood friends, this show takes being there for each other to a whole new level.
Friends Dougie (Taylor Schatz) and Kayleen (Christina Johnson) first meet at age eight in their school nurse’s office, swap stories for why they’re there and begin to get to know each other. As the years ago by in this nonlinear time sequence of 30 years, the audience sees the extreme depths to which the two sink. Years go by between meetings and run-ins, and as time moves on, the two friends find themselves in some very dark places.
Kayleen suffers from stomach trouble and is deeply scarred by indifferent parents and her awkward growing-up years. Her decline is marked by self-harm, addiction and poor mental health, but the one thing that is positive and constant in her life is Dougie, her oldest friend.
Dougie is an unlucky, accident-prone daredevil who never really thinks things through. As the years go by, his injuries add up. From losing an eye to being struck by lightning, the guy never really seems to grasp that his actions have definite consequences.
Pairing these characters together makes for an interesting friendship. No matter what, the two are always there for each other; even though they’re seeing each other every five years; even though they only see each other at their worst; even though they’ve been hurt, inside and out.
In 90 minutes, this show stirs up a whole heap of emotions. Laughs, tears, and smiles are found everywhere in here. Dougie and Kayleen are very easy to watch, and the audience can’t help but want to throw them both a life preserver in the raging sea that is their lives.
It is hard to pin down which scene would best define the two’s friendship, but if love is found anywhere in this story, it is when Dougie learns of Kayleen’s first sexual encounter and sees the scars of her self-harm. What follows is very raw, and Schatz and Johnson can be congratulated on delivering such a passionate moment.
Only one thing really works against this show, and that is the transitional music between scenes. As the actors rearrange the set and change costumes, a harsh and eerie instrumental cuts the air like nails on a chalkboard. It would be a wise move to take some earplugs along for this, as the music’s volume is quite loud.
With one show left in its season after this current hit, Theatre B is on the downward slide of 2013-2014. “Gruesome Playground Injuries” started the new year off right for the downtown theater, and for the next two weekends, area residents can catch this stellar show before it shuts down.
“Gruesome Playground Injuries” continues its run at Theatre B at 716 Main Avenue every Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. until Feb. 22 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 16. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students, and are available at the box office and by phone at 701-729- 8880.