GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES
By Rajiv Joseph
Millennial Poison Theatre Company
Doug – Michael Breath Jr.
Kayleen – Shelby Priddy
Kayleen (U/S) – Alex Stout
Director – Lucas Haupert
Stage Manager – Dylan Mobley
Assistant Stage Manager – Alana Henry
Choreographer – Dani Haines
Reviewed Performance: 4/19/2019
Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Have you ever had that one steady friend in your life whom you could confide in anything with? A friend you could be apart from for years on end and every time y’all were reunited it was just like yesterday? A friend that shares in your pain. A friend that ‘gets you’.
This is the story about two best friends who inevitably find themselves brought together time and time again in the most unusual of places: the hospital. Gruesome Playground Injuries is a play about healing broken wounds of people with the human touch.
Each actor with his and her own scars to mend—Doug (Michael Breath Jr.) is accident prone to physically hurt his body through completely preventable activities, often propagated from irrational bouts of emotional motives.
Arriving to his side is the lovely Kayleen (Shelby Priddy & Alex Stout), born with stomach issues and a destructive family dynamic inducing her to self-inflicted bodily harm. It is incredibly fun to watch the personality contrasts between the duo fluctuate in power.
Doug is the optimist in the relationship. His head is always on cloud nine, dreaming up big ideals. He is the cheerleader and goofy guy that flips a bad scenario upside-down. My favorite part in the entire play his when he takes the bucket at the school dance and throws up saying, “Our throw up is mixed together.” Kayleen’s expression is priceless!
When he gets hurt, Doug whimpers like a defeated puppy, looking for solace in Kayleen. When such attention is given, he immediately brightens up. Doug has always been the brave one to make bold moves, and his advances on his best friend are courageous. It is sad to see him rejected repeatedly, and it isn’t until towards the end we see Doug become jaded from her refusal to accept his love.
Kayleen is the fearful and angry. She abhors the world and only wants to be left alone. Paradoxically, she is drawn to the well-being of Doug and somehow has been granted magical healing powers only she has for him. This nurturing aspect to care and comfort people in their time of need is indeed a powerful attribute.
This is most apparent in the coma scene when she stands above his lying body and performs a ridiculous ritual filled with hand gestures, oos and ahhhh.
At the end of the play, both characters have switched roles in the push & pull. While Doug is the aggressor in the beginning, Kaylene takes over at the end.
The set is minimalistic with few props, instead focusing on the characters to create the space with their dialogue. Director Lucas Haupert uses a projector to play a compilation of videos related to the upcoming scenes. I found this artistic direction fascinating because it was entertaining and efficient at making use of scene transitions the actors needed to change costumes.
The costumes were perhaps the most complicated technical aspect of all. Each outfit set the scene aligning with the stage in life the characters were. Adult Doug & Kyleen wore suits and dresses and as teenagers, their garb was jeans and a graphic T-shirt.
There was an interpretative dance at the very beginning of the show which didn’t make much sense until the very end. As you watch each scene, you’ll reference specific poses the character’s used in that initial dance. I always find movement without dialogue to be a special way to communicate story, and Haupert did an excellent job setting up the world for us.
My one chief critique was in the fireworks scene when Doug lost his right eye for good. It felt like things escalated from zero to one hundred percent in intensity over a single line. The lack of build-up took me by surprise, and I didn’t particularly enjoy the progression in this scene.
However, in the drill scene the buildup there is an excellent example of how tension should rise in a scene all the way up to the “f**k you c**ksucker” climax. I appreciate how dedicated both actors were staying in the moment throughout the duration of the show.
There’s a lot to be said about the intimate experience you get from being in the theatre for this show. It’s a dark comedy that expertly delivers on the human condition. Gruesome Playground Injuries explores different dynamics we all experience at different stages in our lives.
I guarantee you will resonate with at least one scene whether it be the Doug’s fight to protect the reputation of the girl he loves, or the ice-skating injuries we all inevitably end up on our butts.
Gruesome Playgrounds Injuries
April 18 through April 21, 2019
The Core Theatre
518 West Arapaho Road
Richardson, TX 75080
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