Tuesday, October 1, 2013

KC STAR Review: True Love Travels A Treacherous Road in 'Gruesome Playgound Injuries'

September 29
Robert Trussell
The Kansas City Star

Director Sidonie Garrett serves up an impressive bare-bones production of this two-character dark comedy at the Fishtank Performance Studio, where actors Heidi Van and Chris Roady bring this bizarre and touching tale to life.
Photo by Brian Paulette

Joseph’s elliptical story line follows the decades-long relationship between Doug and Kayleen, who meet when they are each 8 years old and whose lives intersect repeatedly through their teens, 20s and 30s. What binds them is a series of grotesque mishaps — falling accidents, gashed faces, lost eyes, broken legs, damaged teeth, self-inflicted injuries — as well as an irresistible, if indescribable, emotional attachment.

Joseph prefers to jump back and forth in time rather than lay out the relationship in chronological order, but his craftsmanship is impeccable. His dialogue is economical but vivid, natural but heightened. And he suggests a deep backstory for these characters with deft allusions to events and family members we never see. Had his exposition been more explicit, he would have sacrificed the play’s brevity and much of its power.

Garrett and her actors maintain a delicate balancing act, bringing the sadistic humor to life without overshadowing the honest sentiment running through the play. These characters go through some serious changes, and Van and Roady skillfully navigate their rocky journeys into adulthood with nuanced performances.

Photo by Brian Paulette 
Van has often been typecast — sometimes by herself — as a clown and sad-sack comedian, but in this piece she has a chance to balance those sharp comic instincts with her estimable ability handling dramatically deep material. Kayleen’s injuries and scars are more psychic than physical and Van eloquently enunciates the character’s inner pain. 

 Roady demonstrates his versatility in a precise performance that requires him to shift gears repeatedly as we watch him accumulate an impressive mass of scar tissue. Doug laughingly describes himself as “accident prone” at one point, but the truth is clear: His attraction to thanatos — the death drive — makes him do the crazy things he does. His love for Kayleen is undiminished, and in Roady’s performance we see the devotion of boy/man whose object of affection is both his salvation and his undoing.

This piece runs about 90 minutes without an intermission, and the actors change costumes in full view of the audience. It’s really the only rational choice in the intimate confines of the Fishtank, but it gives the show a sort of no-frills theatrical flair.

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” runs through Oct. 13 at the Fishtank Performance Studio, 1715 Wyandotte St. For more information, call 816-809-7110 or go to BrownPaperTickets.com.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/29/4516586/true-love-travels-a-treacherous.html#storylink=cpy

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