Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph, Capital T Theatre at FronteraFest 2013, January 25 - February 6

Austin Live Theatre reviewGruesome Playground Injuries Rajiv Joseph Capital T Theatre Austin TX

by Michael Meigs

Rajiv Joseph's collection of two-character scenettes for Gruesome Playground Injuries appeals to the young and restless.  Students at Texas State did it last semester, and Capital T confided it to Kelsey Kling via their New Directors Program for presentation at the FronteraFest Long Fringe.

Many audience members at both venues can identify strongly with this pair of awkward losers.  They're searching for something, but they don't know what it is.  Doug and Kayleen first become aware of each other in primary school.  For some inexplicable reason, over the course of perhaps 15 years they never really find one another, perhaps because they're too much alike; the subtly resonating theme in the piece is one of precisely self-guided defeat.  If you care about each other, why aren't you able to take care of one another?

Gruesome Playground Injuries Rajiv Joseph Capital T Theatre Austin TX

Director Kling provides a dressing area for each actor, situated on either side of a central playing space.  We experience the satisfaction of voyeurs and theatre fans as we glimpse Jason Newman and Laura Artesi, each in a personal space, changing costume, props and makeup between scenes.  The transformations are entertaining in themselves. Newman's assorted bandages, patches and bloody shirts establish his maladroit character with a certain affectionate humor.  The isolations of staging reinforce the theme of the piece.

The actors open the action by entering the central area and perching on a couple of institutional examining tables.  We quickly understand that they're in the nurse's office at school, probably waiting to be picked up by concerned parents.  Doug has smashed his face in a playground accident; Kayleen is ill.  Much of the comedy in this initial scene comes from body language -- splayed limbs, spontaneous moves, sudden jerks, all the awkwardness and coltishness of young persons who haven't yet mastered the functioning of their own bodies.  Doug's a goofus; Kayleen's a worried, distracted dreamer.

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