The iconic playwright Rajiv Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) presents a different kind of tragic love story, in the Rogue Machine Theatre's current production of "Gruesome Playground Injuries." The story brings together two childhood friends, who first meet (not cute) in the school nurse's office, where wounded Doug (impeccably performed by Brad Fleischer), has just fallen from the roof on his bicycle and meets Kayleen ( the strikingly intense Jules Willcox), tormented by self imposed destruction (cutting), and a depressive streak.
Their characters develop profoundly, as they come to life onstage, (physical and emotional wounds and all), as they maneuver their gut wrenching journey of reuniting in various infirmaries, mental hospitals, and assorted hospital rooms. The set is quite cleverly self-contained, as the two performers themselves, rearrange the very same bed, in each set change, as well as change clothes and reapply wounds and dressings, and wash off blood from previous scenes. As each scene progresses, and the intensity of their conditions and illnesses escalate, each performer struggles to alleviate each other's pain, and as a result of commiseration, their inhibitions lessen and empathy increases.
The play showcases two extremely talented performers, who convincingly 'hold their own,' and the audience captive, throughout the entire 85 minute performance. Fleischer and Willcox maintain a natural chemistry and wide range of emotion, and the inherent ability to share the message of how truly precious life is, despite one tragic accident prone event after another. Each secret they share shed light on the darkness of their formative years.
With their emotions quite literally worn on their sleeves, and blood stained skin, the co-dependent love we witness in this drama is both sensitive and dysfunctional in one, with each character enveloped in drama and tragedy. As if love is not enough, this play poignantly explores how the intersection of bruises, scars, wounds, pain, and ultimately connection, bring two lives together, to ultimately share a lifelong bond; to gain one another's love through the cumulative effect of their damage.
Every single line of dialogue is intrinsic in delivering a play quite evocative and simply compelling.
Through July 14th, Saturdays, 5PM; Sundays 7PM; and Mondays 8PM
Rogue Machine Theatre 5041 W. Pico Blvd.