Monday, February 21, 2011

Gruesome Playground Injuries

"Gruesome Playground Injuries" at Second Stage Theatre, February3, 2011

Despite some excellent make-up effects, Rajiv Joseph's two-hander about two friends who spend their lives meeting up at the emergency room with injuries ranging from nausea to sprained angles to missing teeth and eyes doesn't quite find a focus.  (I could practically hear Darren McGavin saying, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid.")  Mr. Joseph adds to the confusion by bouncing the plot in non-sequential five year increments.

Pablo Schreiber is Doug, whose injuries are always much more physically damaging than those of Kayleen, played by Jennifer Carpenter.  Both make a valiant effort to bring credibility to their roles, but the evening is undercut the painfully overlong transitions when the actors must change their costumes and sets themselves.   Ms. Carpenter is, to quote a casting director I once heard, "strong by wrong."  I'd like to see her again in a role that suits her better.  Mr. Schreiber is much stronger than his material, as well as being a good bit more physically robust than the accident-prone character he portrays.

Director Scott Ellis does well enough getting the most from his actors, but he's held them back as well, particularly with the mechanics of scene transitions.  The best feature of this play is Neil Patel's open set, which allows additional seating on what is traditionally the upstage area.  Drawers and cabinets open on each end, and acrylic compartments provide a quick wash to clean up after some of the more "gruesome" accidents.  Donald Holder's lighting maximizes the set's ingenuity.

Gruesome Playground Injuries closed February 20, 2011.

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