Section: Arts

Gruesome Playground Injuries promises blood and fun

Gruesome Playground Injuries promises blood and fun

Love, life, death, friendship and quite a bit of blood. That’s what viewers can expect when they go to see Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, presented by Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club as the senior thesis of director Lauren Katz ’15 (who is also a Collegian arts editor) and actor Rachel Kaplan ’15. Performances are this weekend in the Hill Theater on Friday, Jan. 23 and Saturday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.

Gruesome Playground Injuries follows the lives of childhood friends Kayleen (Kaplan) and Doug (Elliot Cromer ’15) over a period of 30 years. The story, which is told out of chronological order, starts in the school nurse’s office, when Kayleen and Doug are eight years old, in the aftermath of an actual playground injury. Katz described how, as Kayleen and Doug continue their lives, losing and finding each other along the way, their injuries, both physical and psychological, become much more gruesome. “You see how [the friendship] forms, and eventually becomes something toxic,” Katz said.

The non-chronological format presents a challenge to set design and transitions, but Katz has developed an interesting way to combat this obstacle. Six different sets erected around the stage represent different phases of life, and Kaplan leads Cromer from one era to another as the lights dim on a finished scene. The two actors change costumes onstage, resembling children playing dress-up from the way they pull clothes out of boxes.

Katz first became aware of Gruesome Playground Injuries when she saw the second scene of the play, in which Kayleen and Doug are both in their 20s, performed in an acting class. A few years later, when she was searching for plays for her thesis, she read Gruesome Playground Injuries again and sent it to Kaplan to read. “I fell in love with the friendship between Doug and Kayleen,” Katz said. “As toxic as it is, I just think it’s beautiful how they need each other and always come together.”

Kaplan said that although portraying Kayleen and her injuries over the years has been a challenge, it has also been extremely fulfilling. “It is a difficult role, in that Kayleen has experienced a lot of things that I fortunately have not had to experience,” Kaplan said. “Having to figure out who she is, and where she comes from, and why she does the things she does has been really interesting, and it’s been a good challenge for me.”

The play tackles some difficult topics, but Kaplan is still eager to share the story with the Kenyon audience. “It is heavy,” Kaplan said. “You can tell that there’s going to be serious stuff addressed in it. But it’s still got a certain sense of humor, and even though [Doug and Kayleen’s] relationship does become toxic there are some really good parts to it that are worth watching.”

Gruesome Playground Injuries is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and a gory title should not stop anyone from seeing it. “Yes, it has blood,” Katz said. “But every good story has blood.”

Tickets are available for $2 at the box office at the Bolton Theater, open Monday-Friday 1-5 p.m., or over the phone at (740) 427-5546.

 

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