Gruesome Playground Injuries: A CenterStage Production


Image Courtesy of Theatre is Easy

By David Moretti

It’s never fun to fall on the playground. However, sometimes what we find in times of struggle – both mental and physical –  are connections and relationships that support us. 

In Rajiv Joseph’s play “Gruesome Playground Injuries”, two characters named  Doug and Kayleen cross paths throughout their separate, and almost opposite, lives. While Kayleen is attempting to settle down and live a quiet life, Doug continues to injure himself in new ways. 

Although Doug’s ailments tend to be more “physical” in nature, Kayleen visits him in times of mental turmoil. The conversations between the characters are always driven by their injuries. This leads them to have impactful and meaningful interactions, despite their infrequent nature.

Their bond over injuries dates back to their elementary school days, in which the pair became acquainted in the nurse’s office. The out-of-order timeline of the play also highlights how people can weave in and out of each other’s lives amongst the chaos of the unexpected.

Another unique part about Gruesome Playground Injuries is that it solely stars two characters, who are played by the same man and woman throughout the production. Rather than having actors of different ages play the characters during different portions of their lives, Joseph emphasizes the importance of consistency in the actors. 

Along with its “1 man, 1 woman” style, Joseph also emphasizes the value of scene transitions. To highlight the messiness and depth of these characters’ lives, scene transitions are shown to the audience, rather than hidden and managed by the crew. In a play exploring the depth of relationships, seeing the background transitions happen is a reminder that things are constantly changing.

The New York Times calls Joseph an “artist of original talent” using innovative theatrical techniques, such as a minimalistic set (in an effort to keep audiences engaged with the characters themselves). The Times also writes that “Rajiv Joseph’s interest in sin and redemption finds powerful expression in his calling as a playwright.”

Doug and Kayleen’s relationship now makes its way to Catholic University’s Callan Theatre for three showings: Friday, December 8th at 8 pm, and Saturday, December 9th at 2 pm and 8 pm. Four actors will be playing the pair in Center Stage’s adaptation of the acclaimed show. Senior Acting Major Anna Sheehan and Senior Musical Theatre major Kyle Holcomb will play Kayleen and Doug in their later years. Freshman Musical Theatre majors Aleyna Francis and Chase Nester will play the duo in their elementary school days. See Doug and Kayleen’s lives in action, and hopefully, don’t get any injuries on the way!

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