Joseph's play Gruesome Playground Injuries, currently being performed at R-S Theatrics, also is a little strange. It has no ghosts, no mingling of reality and fantasy. But the realities of its two characters, while quite recognizable and mostly believable, are a little out of the ordinary.
Kayleen and Doug first meet as eight-year-olds in their elementary school's nurse's office. She has an upset stomach. He's fallen off the roof.
We meet them at intervals for 30 years, not always in chronological order. Sometimes the intervals are brief. Sometimes the two go years without seeing each other. When they meet, it's usually in some kind of medical facility, and always after some kind of injury.
Her injuries are often self-inflicted, whether psychosomatic or by wielding a knife. His are the result of risky behavior. For that reason, you could argue his also are self-inflicted. He seems to be more than a bit of a masochist. So, in a more subtle way, does she.
Though the playwright has Kayleen give us more reasons for her behavior than we get from Doug, she remains more of a mystery to me than he does.
Mysterious, too, is their relationship. They appear to be made for each other. Even after an absence of years, they find each other. But they refuse to commit to any kind of permanent relationship. The playwright leaves it there, unresolved. This frustrated me a little, but it also felt right.
Christina Rios gives us a deeply troubled Kayleen. You ache for her, you long for her to find some way to get a hold on her troubles. Mark Kelley's Doug comes on as more than a bit of a doofus. But he is the one who appears to suffer most deeply from the couple's inability to commit.
Rios and Randy Stinebaker co-directed the finely wrought unfolding of this relationship. R-S Theatrics performs the short, two-person play in one of the intimate spaces at Crestwood Court with minimal but sufficient staging. Meg Brinkley's props provide the necessary environment and quickly set the multiple scenes. Rios and Kelley's costume changes take longer. A couple of dressers could have shortened the interruptions, or perhaps the changes could have been played by the actors as a part of the unfolding of the story.
We do get to hear Ravel's Bolero as they change. Not Bolero again, I thought at first. But as the story went on, it became the right music.
Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries hurts, but in a mostly good way, in R-S Theatrics' fascinating production.