Pacific Theatre
Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph

Dates and Venue April 1 - 16, 2016, Wed – Sat 8pm (all Sat matinees at 2pm) | Pacific Theatre, 1440 W 12th Ave.

Director Chelsea Haberlin Set Designer Carolyn Rapanos Costume Designer Christopher David Gauthier Lighting Designer Phil Miguel Sound Designer Chris Adams Stage Manager Shelby Bushell

Reviewer John Jane

Rajiv Joseph’s two-handed, black comedy Gruesome Playground Injuries, is, as in the title of Lady Gaga’s song, loudly played during a frantic onstage costume change, a “bad romance.”

Kayleen (Pippa Johnstone) and Doug (Kenton Klassen) meet serendipitously, although they appear to attend the same school, as rambunctious eight-year-olds in an emergency room. Doug is perhaps less accident-prone than a harebrained risk-taker. Kayleen is typically white bread with deep self esteem issues.

Over the next thirty years we see the pair cross paths half dozen more times in similar circumstances – though, oddly not in any chronological sequence. Yet, they never really mature much beyond their childhood personas

Routinely, one or the other and occasionally both is wounded or otherwise afflicted (in Kayleen’s case, self-afflicted). It’s an obvious paradox that while Doug’s wounds are by nature, playground trauma, Kayleen’s are internal.

These two damaged souls deserve each other and while Doug accepts he might even need Kayleen – he actually believes her to have healing powers – she is non-committal. In an exquisite anomaly, Kayleen reveals passing reciprocal compassion for Doug only once, when she visits him as he lies in a coma.

Johnstone and Klassen know the play and each other well. Together they staged the piece as a successful final apprentice project. The experience shows through in a good way. Their shared rapport certainly works for them in the “warts-and-all” device of executing all the scene changes in front of the audience.

The same device is juiced up with Chris Adams’ soundtrack of pop tunes that currently populate AM radio. The older the characters are in the following scene, the longer the transition takes.

Director Chelsea Haberlin also owns some familiarity with the play. Despite its fabricated construction and oblique narrative arc, she generally keeps it on track, yet still enticing the audience to ask questions.

© 2016 John Jane