Nov 15

Grotesque Hyperbolic humour at the centre of Gruesome Playground Injuries

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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There is always that question that kids ask when they see an injury, ‘Does it hurt?‘ Followed by ‘can I touch it?‘ These questions permeate Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth’s newest production Gruesome Playground Injuries.

The play tells of the connection between Kayleen (Jamie Konchak) and Doug (Patrick MacEachern) as we see them reunited every five years, over the span of thirty years. Each time, Doug sports a new grotesque injury from doing something daring, as he calls it. The story explores their bizarre, twisted friendship through a playful, childlike lens. The narrative jumps around, the characters going from 8 years old in one scene to 23 in the next.

The outstanding aspects of Gruesome Playground Injuries Deitra Kalyn’s set, and Ian Kelly’s sound design. The set features a series of lockers in the back and all the costume changes are in these lockers, which are labeled with the ages of the characters. The bench in the middle of the stage is versatile as a nurse’s bed, a hospital bed and a see-saw. The set design ties in perfectly with the playground theme of the play. Kelly’s sound design fits and fills in the moments when the play changes scenes, in which there are many. The music sets the tones of the various scenes. Kalyn’s costume design is fitting to the characters. In one scene, Doug comes in with a t-shirt with a tuxedo print on it that an 8th grader would definitely wear.

Konchak and MacEachern, reunited since their appearance in the lovely Reasons to be Pretty, by the same theatre companies, both pull off great acting in this production, with what they have to work with. Konchak fills out her depressive character and is great playing every age handed to her. MacEachern also does a fine job as the accident prone, risk taking Doug.

Rajiv Joseph’s script skates on the surface of these two characters but doesn’t have a lot of depth. The dialogue centers around the characteristic of Doug being accident prone and Kayleen being sick. Every time the play diverts into something with more meaning, it quickly returns to it’s original position.

The depiction of the friendship between these two people presents the outlines of a compelling narrative, but lacks complexity and layers. The play brushes onto some pretty heavy themes of death, spirituality and self injury, but doesn’t explore them in any way. For instance, it is revealed in a scene that Kayleen cuts herself and shows Doug the scars. There isn’t anything more that explores that pain, it is just presented as fact without any character motivation.  And when the narrative might have the time to explore the darkness of these themes, the scene changes.

There are eight scene changes in the play and they are major and take up precious character exploration time. The grotesque hyperbolic humour is an interesting element to the narrative, but the play seems to rely on that alone, instead of character development. If the characters were round and fully developed, the hyperbolic nature of the storyline would be a delightful element to the narrative. But without it, Gruesome Playground Injuries has the sketched outlines of a compelling narrative, with good acting, but falls short overall.

Gruesome Playground Injuries runs at The Studio in the Vertigo Theatre until November 24th. Tickets and more information is available online.
(Three stars out of five)

Photo Credit: Trudie Lee

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