“You’ll touch it,” Doug pleads to Kayleen. “You’ll heal me. The pills only last so long.”
We visit these characters over the course of three decades, each scene jumping forward 15 years and then back 10. Doug runs at the world at full pelt, destroying his body in the process: a leg broken in three places; an eye blown out. Kayleen wants to retreat from the world: her pain is held inside. Neither knows how to heal the other.
Larissa Kokernot directs Rajiv Joseph’s 2011 play Gruesome Playground Injuries with a gentle rhythm. Her finest moments are often found in the quiet between conversations and the gulfs between scenes. Her actors tenderly attend to each other, a slow meander between moments in combative lives.
This isn’t a love story, although love is shared and lost between the pair. Brad Fleischer’s Doug has a boisterous energy that takes over the room and the world; Jules Willcox’s Kayleen exists in wavering eyes and small smiles, before a sudden explosion threatens to take hold of all of the energy.
Yet the play feels imbalanced in its exploration of this friendship, with Joseph’s script prioritising Doug over Kayleen. His injuries are large, external and returned to again and again. Kayleen’s injuries are large, internal and silenced.
Kokernot and her actors prioritise both stories equally, especially in the quiet. But while Joseph explores much in what keeps people coming back into each other’s lives, the process of pain and the creation of these playground injuries remains unanalysed.