Gruesome Playground Injuries

‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ was written by Ohio playwright Rajir Joseph when he was 35 yrs. old, after having served three years in the West African Republic of Senegal. This spectacularly original play had its world premiere in October 2009 at the Alley Theatre in Houston. A year later Joseph was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama for his play ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’.

This New York University lecturer went on to write more plays and scripts for radio and the cinema.

This T.E.N. Performing Arts production was produced by Nicholas Allen and presented for two nights at the Roxy Lane Theatre, 55 Ninth Avenue in Maylands. The 90-minute (one Act) performances were Friday 11th and Sat 12th June at 7.00 pm.

In Gruesome Playground Injuries, Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph has crafted a frequently funny and rather dark play. It traces the symbiotic relationship between Kayleen and Doug, best friends whose lives intertwine over the course of 30 years.

Scene:   American town in various contemporary locations over the course of 30 years.

Set:        Multiple settings, mainly signified by prop changes. The rear wall was white with a brown 30 cm platform across the full width of the stage. There were two modern, single sized iron bedsteads. In each rear corner was a wardrobe rack of clothes, one for each actor.

Stage manager:               was Tyler Lindsay-Smith.

Stage crew:        All set changes were carried out solely by the two actors between each of the 8 or 9 scenes. I thought it was a bit demanding asking actors who were already doing a 90-minute, two-hander to change scenery – including moving two beds with bedding on several occasions – and then they changed costume before having to start the next scene, usually several years earlier or later than where they left off. But the two outstanding actors were unfazed and did it flawlessly, then straight back into character.

Lighting and sound design            was by Tyler Lindsay-Smith. The lighting was mainly a subdued soft domestic light, with a bluer outdoor tone or for hospital lighting. The music played during the scene changes was soft and worked well.

At the age of eight, lovable, friendly but highly accident-prone Doug (Nicholas Allen) meets caring, endearing Kayleen (Emma Harvey) in the school nurse’s office. Kayleen has yet another upset stomach, but this goes out of her mind when she discovers Doug has just split head riding his bike off the school roof! Being curious Kayleen examines and touches Doug‘s scar; then, a short w le after Kayleen’s laying on of the hands, Doug finds the scar has disappeared.

               As the play progresses, we find ourselves witnessing many more of Doug’s physical disasters, and how much faith he has in Kayleen magical presence. The scenes go backwards and forwards over thirty years. Although the intensity of the young couple’s love changes, their loyalty and genuine compassion continues.

Superbly directed by Tyler Lindsay-Smith, the two outstanding actors did not falter for a second. Considering the many changes in the characters’ ages, their health and state of mind this called many skills that few actors possess. This production held the audience in tense silence throughout. The chemistry between the characters showed not only on the surface, but the audience was fully aware of the depth of other mixed sentiments.

A complex but most enjoyable production, handled with tremendous skill.