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BWW Review: GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES at TheatreLAB: A Therapy Session Onstage... Of Sorts...

BWW Review: GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES at TheatreLAB: A Therapy Session Onstage... Of Sorts...
Photography By Louise Ricks

If I might venture into the realm of the personal...

I think it's safe to assume that most of us - in the aftermath of a tumultuously stressful situation - are inclined to take a well-earned bit of time to cognitively decompress into a more base and manageable state of perception.

Moreover, we're understandably disposed to reassess some personal realities (whether they're under our control or not), and thence question our place of being among said truths:

"What does all of this mean...? What more could I have done...? How could I have changed this...?"

Such a myriad of existential queries might cascade through our faculties like a gushing torrent...

But, yet... it is in these very, very specific periods of quiet soul-searching and retrospection where we, the audience, continue to see Kayleen (Rachel Rose Gilmour) and Doug (Jeffrey Cole) regard one another, over and over again, in TheatreLAB's intimate new production of Rajiv Joseph's GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES.

These two people, having been strained and battered through unconnected periods of emotional trauma, freak accidents or attempts at self-harm, engage in each other's company as a transitional respite before taking that all-important next step - separately.

So much do they need this somewhat superstitious release that it ultimately becomes a tradition... thirty years in the making! These cleansing exercises - each involving Doug and Kayleen not long after a trying incident - are dissected across a nonlinear storyline ranging from their childhood years to their more arduous days as adults.

No small task, to be sure. Fortunately for the audience, the play's two leads run this gamut with solemn dedication and palpable chemistry.

Ms. Gilmour never conjures a false moment as she pensively navigates Kayleen through years of convoluted and seemingly crushing angst. And Doug, somewhat more optimistic (and foolhardy) in his approach to life, is astutely realized by Mr. Cole with amiable humor and pathos.

Director Melissa Rayford, once again showing her penchant for time-jumping stories after the luminous spectacle that was BRIGHT HALF LIFE, has created a sincere story of longing and hope juxtaposed against unseen instances of forlorn bewilderment.

While the story itself is unassuming and tender, the dialogue is usually short spurted but completely believable. Also, given the deliberately disjointed nature of the piece, more than one viewing might be necessary should one wish to garner a greater appreciation of the scope and arc of the story.

Spectators are advised to use caution as this piece contains bits of adult language, thematic elements, the smoking of herbal cigarettes, and a scene of self-mutilation. I would say that viewers under the age of 18 should be accompanied by a parent or guardian in regards to how viscerally stark some of the action is played out in such close proximity to the audience sitting in The Cellar.

As for me, the play elicited some very real "sense memory" flashes when, in my more sullen times, I've needed more than a minute or two to regain myself (such was the very recent case when an actor friend of mine passed away unexpectedly (and far too young)).

Indeed, such bittersweet (and relatable) pieces like GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES can presumably serve as a quasi-guide on how one can - for lack of better phrasing - "pick up the pieces" through earnest stints of introspection, and in the comfort and succor of friends and loved ones.

Sure; theatre can be therapeutic. And it's no small wonder as to why some of us keep doing it... and won't ever stop!

GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES is presented as part of "The Cellar Series" at TheatreLAB, and it plays through June the 23rd, 2018.

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From This Author Brent Deekens