‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ Tracks a Friendship Over a Lifetime

Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph invites audiences to watch as the two sole characters, Doug (John Maidman PO ’11) and Kayleen (Tori Gaines CMC ’13), change before their very eyes. The play follows their friendship from their first meeting at age eight to their last at 38, weaving through time and picking out important moments in their relationship. Each moment is marked by a physical injury suffered by Doug.

It is a story about hurt, both physical and emotional, and the toll it can take over the course of a lifetime. Each scene acts as a window into the lives of two people—Best friends? Soul mates?—who seem to be each other’s only comfort in lives marked by serious injury on Doug’s part, and profound sadness on Kayleen’s.

Also, they change their clothes on stage between every scene. In fact, these onstage costume changes took up what felt like half of the stage time of the tech rehearsal I watched Wednesday night. While at first these transitions (it is specified in the script that they be done in plain sight) felt overly long and forced, by the end of the show it is clear that these interactions are integral to the meaning of the play.

It becomes a sort of Zen-like meditation to watch the two characters pick up each other’s clothes, zip zippers, paint on the others’ wounds and wipe them off again. One of the most touching moments for me as an audience member was in just such a scene, as Maidman carefully painted scars on Gaines’ legs in preparation for the next scene. Doug and Kayleen are so codependent that, on second thought, it seems obvious that they would do even their behind the scenes work as a team.

This particular production is groundbreaking for the 5C college community in that it is the first time that a student director (Laura Steinroeder SC ’13, who also happens to be the first student to have a directing concentration within the theater major) has been allowed to put up a play in a main-stage performance space.

The first collaboration of sorts between the student theater group, Bottom Line Theatre, and the theater department, the show is entirely student-produced. While lighting designer Giselly Rodriguez PO ’12 and Maidman are not current students at the 5Cs, they are recent graduates from the department, and this is the first glimpse into what students trained in this program are capable of when given full access to the department’s resources. And we’re quite impressive, if I do say so myself.

Gruesome Playground Injuries runs tonight and tomorrow in the Allen Theatre. Each performance starts at 8 p.m. Admission is free and no reservations are needed.

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