— Production poster
GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES
Gruesome Playground Injuries is an odd and strangely moving one-act love story that follows Kayleen (Pippa Johnstone) and Doug (Kenton Klassen) from their Catholic school childhood to their damaged adulthood with many u-turns in between. The chronology is not the only thing that’s fractured. Doug is curiously accident-prone. Each time he and Kayleen meet, every five years or so, he has suffered another injury: he’s been in a fight or stepped on a rusty nail or had an eye blown out by fireworks or been hit by lightning. In adulthood Kayleen cuts herself, although her gruesome injuries are more often psychological and emotional. They live their lives on separate but parallel planes, each one’s need seeming to conjure the other’s temporarily healing presence.
Johnstone and Klassen, both attractive young actors, turn in fine performances, he showcasing Doug’s blithe innocence and she digging deep into Kayleen’s self-destructive unhappiness. Director Chelsea Haberlin drives the play forward with a unique device: during the transitions between scenes the actors access onstage clothes racks, changing their costumes rapidly and violently to a loud, pulsating rock score. (Credit Christopher David Gauthier for the easy on/off costumes and Chris Adams for the fine sound design.) This device is especially effective in the close confines of Pacific Theatre as the audience gets to experience an almost visceral connection with the characters’ emotional lives.
Rajiv Joseph’s script has some powerful moments but also some significant holes. We learn so few details about the characters’ lives and have so little context for their neediness that their radical behaviour sometimes seems arbitrary, theatrically contrived for the purpose of manufacturing dramatic confrontations. The play works best when their curious chemistry quietly draws them to each other, drawing us, too, into communion with the mystery of love.