Island Theatre at the Library is held bi-monthly at the Bainbridge Public Library, at 7:30 pm on the first Saturday and Sunday of February, April, June, October, and December.
These script-in-hand performances are presented with stripped-down staging and a minimum of costumes, sets and props so that the power of the drama and language shine through.
In the intimate space of the library, these productions offer an immediacy and intensity that rival fully staged presentations.
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Gruesome Playground Injuries
by Rajiv Joseph
Featuring Rachel Noll James and Joseph Lacko, directed by Steve Stolee
Island Theatre, faced with the current social distance requirements of all theaters, will for the first time, produce its June 2020 Island Theatre at the Library series play online for two performances, June 20 and 21 (the link for viewing will be published forthwith). The unconventional romantic comedy features Rachel Noll James and Joseph Lacko, both of whom have appeared in past I.T. productions. The play is directed by I.T. cofounder, Steve Stolee.
The Play: You don’t want Kayleen or Doug, the mismatched almost-lovers in Rajiv Joseph’s two-hander Gruesome Playground Injuries, at the wheel of your carpool. Both are accident-prone and liable to wind up in a ditch. That’s exactly what happens to Kayleen just before the second of eight scenes depicting their on-again, off-again relationship from elementary school to near middle age. Doug is constantly pulling some crazy stunt, like riding his bicycle off the school roof or climbing a telephone pole during a rainstorm, often as a result of being rejected by Kayleen or in a misguided attempt to gain her love. Kayleen isn’t exactly a poster child for stability either. When she isn’t slicing her skin with a box cutter or checking herself into a clinic for depression, she’s flying to Doug’s side to heal his wounds, but she never stays long enough to settle down with him. Though there is a clear attachment between them, these two klutzes are incapable of sustaining a healthy mutual relationship and only come together when one is in dire straits.
It’s not your typical love story: Doug and Kayleen meet at the nurse’s office in their elementary school; she’s got a painful stomach ache, and he’s all banged up from a running dive off the roof of the school. Over the next thirty years, these scar-crossed lovers meet again and again, brought together by injury, heartbreak, and their own self-destructive tendencies. With great compassion and humor, playwright Rajiv Joseph (Broadway’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) crafts a compelling and unconventional love story about the intimacy between two people when they allow their defenses to drop and their wounds to show.
Gruesome Playground Injuries (GPI) traces the relationship between eight-year-old schoolmates throughout the course of the next thirty years, but in zigzagging time frames, its eight scenes showing them at the following ages: 8, 23, 13, 28, 18, 33, 23, 38. Along the way they experience the usual stages of personal development – first kisses, loss of virginity, early loves, competitive vomiting, attempts at holding down a job, drugs, hospitalization, parents’ funerals.
The play proceeds without intermission, with pauses in between scenes only long enough to accommodate the actors changing clothes and makeup. At each age, Doug suffers some horrible calamity – his mother claims he’s “accident prone” – that begs for Kayleen’s attention and pity. She too has much in her life that she literally cannot stomach. At one point (scene 6, age 33), they meet in rehab.
Presented as a dark comedy, GPI pulls the scabs off all the ways we hurt ourselves and then seek relief from pain – often by inflicting more damage. We see two emotionally troubled characters who are simultaneously drawn to one another and also repelled. Doug seemingly comes from a loving, balanced family, Kayleen not so much: Who can say why some people are cursed with such bad psychological luck?
The author, 41 year-old Rajiv Joseph, is American born of an immigrant father from India, which no doubt accounts for the Indian or Middle Eastern setting for several of his works, though not this one. He is best known for his plays Animals Out of Paper, The North Pool, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (a Pulitzer Prize finalist which starred Robin Williams in its New York production), and Guards at the Taj, and his libretto for the opera Shalimar the Clown by composer Jack Perla, based on the novel by Salman Rushdie. Rajiv Joseph is unquestionably one of the currently most admired and produced playwrights in America
“Rajiv Joseph is an artist of original talent.” —NY Times. “Irresistibly odd and exciting…This darkly humorous drama is Rajiv Joseph’s most satisfying work.” —NY Daily News. “This wondrous strange two-hander finds as much humor as horror in the play’s bizarre events.” —Variety. “Mystical, arresting, and quirkily amusing.” —Washington Post.