If you like watching melancholy love and lots of gore, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is the show for you.
“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is a play by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Bryan Stevenson. The show featured junior theatre major Kirsten Wagner as Kayleen and junior theatre major Lane Norris as Doug.
The show is available both in person at the Thad Smotherman Theatre, and on YouTube as a live stream performance, simultaneously, and for a limited time, from Nov. 6 to 8.
While there weren’t as many folks in the live chatroom online, there was definitely a good number of in-person audience members that I could hear as I waited for the show to start from home.
Along with idle pre-show buzz, fun alternative rock music played in the background and it later served as mood-setting transitions between the eight acts.
The show content itself explored themes of heartache and pain both metaphorically and literally throughout the course of the two character’s lives. Each act exhibits them at different stages from age 8 to 38.
Interestingly enough, the story is told in a non-linear manner, fluctuating massive age gaps between each act. Still, the personality of each character shines through regardless of their age and their passion for each other.
Kayleen and Doug’s first encounter establishes their awkward yet intense relationship which solidifies further throughout the play. From beginning to end, Kayleen’s character becomes this symbol of an angel with a healing touch.
Another key element in the telling of the play is how every other act ties in with each other in small different ways, for example, act 2 and act 7 are connected by not only the time frame but the way their relationship develops in spite of it.
Kayleen is someone who is physically afflicted by her stomach, but emotionally afflicted by her constant denial to emotions. It’s moments without Doug, that make Kayleen aware of just how much she really cares about him, but she refuses herself from him time and again.
Doug constantly puts himself in danger, claiming he does so to see Kayleen again, but as time goes on he becomes tired and really disables himself from causing anymore damage. As he grows up he finds himself falling apart without her.
The most significant part of the play was act 5, even though it’s not even a third of the way through their life at age 18. It’s the strongest plot that may deserve a trigger warning for some, but in the end it really creates the most heartbreaking scene that also becomes the overall essence of the play.
The ending of the play is this melancholic, reminiscent scene where Kayleen tries her best to reconnect with Doug, and in that alone, the emotions conveyed are just epic, there are hardly enough words to describe that punch.
It may be the soundtrack used in the interim of each act, but the shows that came to mind when watching this play are “The End of The F***cking World” available on Netflix and a Broadway musical by Billie Joe Armstrong himself, “American Idiot.”
The overall message I got from the show was just how much pain you cause yourself or just how much pain you happen to be in at that moment, does not define the rest of your life or the love you can allow yourself to have for someone.
In the end, I’d say watching the show both in-person or online is a great way to spend this weekend. I also encourage everyone to watch the last Theatre Wesleyan play of the semester, “Portraits in Black” which opens Nov. 20-22.