A review by Rachel Flanagan.
Jeff Ward and Sara Rae Foster. Photos by Ed Krieger
Love hurts and so does blowing out your eye with fireworks. They each hurt in their own uniquely different way to each person that experiences every type of physical and emotional pain. Gruesome Playground Injuries, by Rajiv Joseph, depicts the evolution of this pain through the evolution of the relationship between Kayleen and Doug. Kayleen (Sara Rae Foster) and Doug (Jeff Ward) first meet at age eight after a school playground incident and upset stomach send them both to the nurses' office. Chance meetings and injuries continue to bring the pair together from the first kiss to the first time and more than once when one of them is knocking on deaths' door. The two of them fit perfectly together but never quite make it work and overtime, as the injuries progress and the heartache grows, they learn that stitches will heal an open wound but scars are there to stay.
Kayleen and Doug meet at the nurses' office at age 8. It seems that Doug thought it would be fun to ride his bike off the roof of the school and Kayleen had an upset stomach. They talk as any 8-year-olds would and Kayleen asks if she can touch Doug's injury. This began their relationship where Doug continues to defy the odds and do things that will only get him hurt. He cut his eye, got pinkeye and then lost his eye to fireworks. He came close death more than once and Kayleen was always there, to heal him. Doug believed that her touch alone healed all of his wounds even though his scars remained behind. Kayleen, on the other, had the kind of pain that no one can see because it is not a visible bleeding open wound but the painful invisible emotional wounds. She has a persistent upset stomach that leads her into a mental hospital because when you try to cut out your insides, no surgeon can heal that wound. As Kayleen and Doug grow up, their relationship remains seemingly platonic because their bond has remained because of physical agony rather than a sexual connection.
Sara Rae Foster brings a tough loner exterior with a hint that there is so much more depth to the character of Kayleen while Jeff Ward brings this fun-loving daredevil with this heart of gold emotion to Doug. Each vignette flows from one age to another, though not in order of age but in an order that builds the story and helps the audience to connect with each character as they progress. The costume changes and injury makeup is done right in front of the audience and the fact that the two actors help each other through each set change and each costume change, helps to establish the connection that they have onstage as these two children who grow up together and are there for each other through each and every injury. It is fitting too, that the same two actors play each character from age 8 to 38 because they never quite grow up as they seem to remain stuck in those early Gruesome Playground Injuries that brought the two of them together and a friendship that will last forever.
Gruesome Playground Injuries
Hudson Backstage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
through June 26
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
For tickets ($25) and information, call (323) 960-7773 or https://www.plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=4449