Peter Mooney & Janet Porter Photo Credit: Guntar Kravis
Written by Pulitzer-Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES is a play about two friends, Kayleen and Doug, who can't be persuaded from their individual paths of self-destruction, hoping that their respective pain will gain the other's love.
Watching Kayleen and Doug pursue one another's affections through hurting themselves, was painful to watch - perhaps intentionally so. It wasn't painful because it was poorly done; on the contrary, it's a very tight show. But I always find it immensely painful when people can't communicate properly and thus repeat their same mistakes in perpetuity.
Both Doug and Kayleen are so consumed by their own trauma, that they're not capable of making the inevitable vulnerability sacrifice (because that could result in emotional pain!), to fully give themselves to the other, but also won't let the other go when they attempt to break free.
Told in a non-linear timeline, actors Peter Mooney (Doug) and Janet Porter (Kayleen) portray their characters from the age of eight until their thirties. Both are great actors, and the scenes where Doug and Kayleen are younger are definitely the most fun to watch; it seemed to give Mooney and Porter more to dig into and it showed.
Each scene in the non-linear story construct is divided by an on-stage costume change, and injury application process (usually involving fake blood). Admittedly, once I cared more about the characters of Doug and Kayleen, the scene changes were more interesting to watch, but unfortunately they were all consistently too long and served to pull me too far out of the story each time.
I don't know if the scene changes could have been shortened and still maintained the same level of theatricality or uniqueness, but I wish they had been shorter anyhow.
If you've ever been involved in a pain-for-your-affection scenario, you'll know that it is a vicious cycle that absolutely will not be broken until one of the participants breaks it. The cycle becomes part of the relationship dynamic and its almost impossible for the relationship to exist without it. But breaking the cycle is almost like a betrayal, and if you're the one doing the betraying, it feels selfish and cold; you're surely choosing your needs over theirs. How can you leave the person when they need you most?
What responsibility do you bear for whatever happens to that person next?
GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES poignantly displayed the exhausting emotional tug-of-war that ensues during this cycle and sad futility that results.
Gruesome Playground Injuries is playing now until May 13 at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen St. W.). For tix, call: 416-538-0988 or click here.