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Gruesome Playground Injuries
a Drama
by Rajiv Joseph

COMPANY : Catalyst Arts Atlanta [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Midtown Players Club at Colony Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 5080

SHOWING : May 19, 2017 - May 27, 2017



A blend of dry humor and raw emotion, Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph has written a story that follows best friends Doug and Kayleen from their first meeting at age eight in the school nurse’s office, through thirty years of separations, reconnections, wounds and scars. Both engage in self-destructive behavior -- Kayleen through cutting, smoking, and self-medication, Doug through various misguided efforts at badassery...such as riding his bike off the roof. As the story unfolds out of sequence, we join Doug and Kayleen in navigating through their complex, chaotic relationship.

Director Rebekah Suellau
Kayleen Emily Kleypas
Doug Justin Walker
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Accidental Love
by playgoer
Friday, June 2, 2017
Rajiv Joseph’s "Gruesome Playground Injuries" shows vignettes from the lives of Kayleen (Emily Kleypas) and Doug (Justin Walker), starting with an encounter in a school nurse’s office where Kayleen is recovering from a sensitive stomach and Doug has gotten patched up after an Evel Knievel-inspired stunt. In subsequent years (not shown in chronological order), they meet under similar accident-al circumstances. There’s definitely a spark between them; a sense of being kindred spirits. But however much we may root for them as a romantic couple, their relationship seems confined to these encounters.

The playing space designed and lit by Joel Coady resembles a boxing ring, with its canvas floor and audience on all four sides. The seating platforms are arranged in two rows, one and two feet off the floor, with no steps leading to them and rickety railings on the front. The space is not intended for anyone with mobility issues.

Six matching Parsons tables in white are stacked to suggest a jungle gym before the play starts. For the first scene, they’re rearranged into two bed-like structures. Subsequent scenes have them reconfigured as various seating areas. The lighting changes for each scene too, as does the blocking by Rebekah Suellau, sometimes putting backs to one section of the audience for almost the full running time of the scene.

Scene changes are relatively long, given that Mr. Walker and Ms. Kleypas have to reconfigure the stage, change costumes, and apply new injury makeup each time. John Cerreta’s piano music nicely covers the time. It’s gently melodic, repetitive, and sweetly dissonant. The injury effects (designed by A. Julian Verner) are inventive, but use a blood color more orange than red.

The performances and pacing are sparkling to begin with, slowing perceptibly over time as the play moves from comedy to poignancy. Mr. Walker does a nice job of conveying youth in the first scene, but the effect is dampened in subsequent scenes that would seem to be chronologically close to the first. Ms. Kleypas becomes less flighty over (chronological) time, but doesn’t have striking vocal changes. The acting, though, is first-rate and keeps interest throughout.

The intensity crackles in this production. Ms. Suellau has directed two fine actors in what is more a character study than a play per se. We become invested in these characters, up to the point where they part in the bright illumination that (somewhat bafflingly) ends the play. Catalyst Arts Atlanta hasn’t found a particularly amenable venue for its production, but it has poured its resources into making "Gruesome Playground Injuries" a memorable theatrical event. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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