Two-Person Play Fulfills Wish of Late Theatre B Ensemble Member
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 09:02
Starting the second half of the 2013-2014 season at downtown Fargo’s Theatre B is Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries.” A small show, this play puts just two actors onstage in a nonlinear timespan that sees two old friends during the most critical moments of their lives.
“It’s a lovely show, it’s a wonderful script, and it’s very B. I mean, it’s got B all over it,” director Pam Strait said. “The playwright is right in our wheelhouse, but part of the reason this play is in our season is because Matthew Burkholder loved it.”
Burkholder, an ensemble member of Theatre B, starred in and directed numerous plays at the downtown venue, and was the driving force behind “Gruesome Playground Injuries” earning a slot this season. Unfortunately, he passed away in December 2012 following a battle with cancer before he could see his selection come to life.
“This was his baby, his legacy, so this wasn’t something I was planning on doing, but it is indeed something I’ve fallen in love with,” Strait said.
Following two friends, Dougie and Kayleen, from their chance meeting in the nurse’s office as 8 year olds, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” analyzes their friendship by peeking in at their lives at various junctures on their journey. Playwright Joseph jumps around in the progression of their story, in a style similar to “Momentum,” Strait said.
At times seeing each other fairly regularly and once for the first time in five years, Dougie and Kayleen find a kind of comfort in each other amid life’s storms. However, their struggles to connect to each other and to define and find their love are somewhat of a barrier to their progression.
“We are seeing them at their crisis moments…the moments that define them as human beings,” Strait explained. “They are so damaged. They’re just fundamentally broken, and each of them sees in the other something that can either heal themselves or that they can help.”
Taylor Schatz and Christina Johnson portray the play’s characters, and both are no strangers to the stage. Schatz, among many other area performances such as “Young Frankenstein” and “Rumors,” appeared in “ReEntry,” Theatre B’s partnership performance with the Fargo VA Hospital in the fall of 2012. Johnson was seen just a year ago in Theatre B’s Incubator Series production “Sweet Nothing: A Grim Fairytale.”
“They’re perfectly balanced, and they are so tuned in to these people,” Strait said. “Their performances are so nuanced that we really get a peek into these people. It’s amazing.”
Altogether, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” represents a legacy of one of Theatre B’s own performers while examining a friendship that searches for strength out of weakness. Two people brought together by chance who remain loyal despite time and distance and distress; that is what this play hits upon, and the moments that define what friendship really is.
“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is presented at Theatre B at 716 Main Ave. at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday through Saturday from Feb. 6 to Feb. 22 with an ASL performance on Feb. 8 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 16. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students and are available at the box office and by phone at 701-729-8880.