REVIEW (Pulp): Kickshaw Theatre’s ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ focuses on long friendship between troubled souls

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Doug (Michael Lopetrone) and Kayleen (Dani Cochrane)flirt with romance and self-sabotage in Gruesome Playground Injuries. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Fittingly, Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, now being staged by Kickshaw Theatre at Ann Arbor’s trustArt Studios, starts in a parochial school’s infirmary, where a deep, lasting friendship takes root between a girl and a boy who recognize in each other a common compulsion toward self-destruction.

The boy, Doug (Michael Lopetrone), is a reckless, thrill-seeking daredevil, while the girl, Kayleen (Dani Cochrane), suffers from stomach problems and later develops a serious cutting habit. The 80-minute play shows glimpses of these two characters at several different ages, between 8 and 38, but it jumps around in time, inviting us to piece together the puzzle of Doug and Kayleen’s intense connection by shifting from childhood to adulthood and back again.

Indeed, Lynn Lammers’ scenic and props design, Shelby Newport’s costume design, Rita Girardi’s lighting design, and Lammers’ and Aral Gribble’s sound design all work together to execute the play’s structure, with a rising line drawn on the back wall, and coat hooks (marked with different ages) holding different costumes for each scene. In addition, Lammers — also the production’s director — provides a bit of choreography as connecting tissue, with music and coolly colored, dim lighting, so that the costume change transitions have an emotional component as well.

Despite Doug and Kayleen’s soulmate-like affinity, they only flirt with romance, despite their obvious, years-long love for, and attraction to, each other. Perhaps on some level they realize — while visiting each other in the hospital, at a recovery center, at a funeral — that their self-sabotage makes each of them both a ticking time bomb and a walking heartache. Even so, Doug firmly believes Kayleen has the power to heal him with her touch; and while Kayleen remains skeptical, over the years, she comes to think it might be true. READ THE REST HERE

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