Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gruesome Playground Injuries

I'm glad the word "gruesome" was in the title of this show.  As I sat in the "playground" seating area (seats on the rear stage facing outward toward the audience leaving only two "walls" to the actors on stage) I soon learned just how gruesome those injuries were going to be.  It's a clever staging technique that I encourage everyone to ask for and enjoy.

A two-person, injury-ridden play that wraps up in 80 minutes is just about all the audience really could be subjected to on this topic by playwright Rajiv Joseph (soon also to be on Broadway with his work Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo staring Robin Williams).  Although it's graphic, it's not a two-hour horror flick either.  We follow the twisted (one might argue mentally unstable) children, Kayleen (Jennifer Carpenter) and Doug (Pablo Schreiber) from childhood to adulthood.  We start at 8 awkward years old and in various non-linear order end up at about 38 years old - drawn inexplicably to each other by injuries usually physical in nature.  Doug is the more outwardly weird one - getting into fights, showing his aggression, and harboring feelings for his best friend, Kayleen.  Superbly played by Mr. Schreiber, I always felt he was slightly mentally challenged and thus that drove his behavior.  Kayleen, on the other hand, while seemingly odd, is the more outwardly normal one - but not without her own problems - more internally driven - depression and rejection.  She's not loved by her father at all and ends up deeply depressed, cuts herself, takes drugs, and at her lowest point - tries to cut her stomach out.  Yes, gruesome is the operative word in the title.

Certainly not a happy play, but Mr. Joseph does have an ear for dialogue and undertones and the staging at 2ST is brilliantly executed.  There are no heroes in this play, no rescues, and not a whole lot of fun - but with two skilled actors, this play takes slices of life and reminds us about the fragility and delicate balance of life itself.