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NotYour Average Love Story:Gruesome Playground Injuries

Caitlyn Scherger '22

Features Editor

Gruesome Playground Injuries tells the story of two childhood friends, Kayleen and Doug, struggling through their lives, physical and mental health concerns, and hardships with the outside world as well as with one another. Written by Rajiv Joseph, this emotional rollercoaster is directed by Alexia Hopson ’20 as part of her capstone project, and features two actors, Tarah Leake ’22 as Kayleen, and Alec Hurst ’23 as Doug.

In the opening act, the audience is introduced to Kayleen and Doug as young children. Both are injured in different ways and are alone in a doctor’s office: Doug with a physically seen injury, and Kayleen with an internal ailment. The two characters converse with one another, comparing their current and past injuries.

As the play unfolds, time skips around to illustrate numerous occasions in their lives when they were hurt, both physically and mentally, causing them to reconnect, but never when, where, and in the ways they want to reconnect.

The play with time is what drew director Alexia Hopson to this specific production.

“I think what I liked most about the script was the non-linear timeline,” she said. “Because it goes back and forth from when they are kids, when they’re teenagers, when they’re adults, not necessarily in that order.”

When asked to describe the play, main actor Alec Hurst called it an imperfect love story. The character Doug chases Kayleen romantically throughout much of the play, but she pushes him away each time. By the end of the show, the two characters’ roles have swapped. Doug finally moves on from Kayleen, and Kayleen, now that she can’t have him, realizes how much she cared for him.

Main actress, Tarah Leake, called the play a dark romance. Underneath the surface, the story addresses and encourages conversations about heavy topics such as grief, suffering, and death to illustrate this is not the typical, desirable love story.

Throughout the play, the set is primarily bare, with a bed and a few chairs present during most scenes, but the focus is otherwise drawn toward the two actors. Hurst believes this is to show what exactly can happen in theatre.

Two actors sitting in a rehearsal space
Tarah Leake '22 and Alec Hurst '23 in rehearsal. Photo Courtesy of Caitlyn Scherger.

“We don’t necessarily need a large set,” he said. “It’s really a character drama piece. This is a chance to be really intimate with just two people on stage, seeing how their lives unfold.”

This element of minimalism for the setting allows the audience to focus primarily on the development and engagement of each character and relate and connect to them better.

There are many themes to walk away with from this performance. Life isn’t always fair. People make relationships in strange places. Hopson hopes one of the main themes people walk away with revolves around love.

“Love isn’t always going to work out the way you think it is,” she said. “Love isn’t always cute pet names and fun dates. It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of heartbreak.”

The relationship between Doug and Kayleen is very representable of this statement. Both Doug and Kayleen experience false hopes and expectations in their relationships. Both assume the other person is ready to love when they are, which leads to unhappiness and struggle for both.

Although the general tone of the play is more serious, it has its lighthearted moments, particularly in the scenes where Doug and Kayleen are younger.

Gruesome Playground Injuries is not a show to miss. Mark it down in your calendars. As Leake puts it, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish there’s more.”

Parental Discretion is advised for this play. Some scenes may not be suitable for those under the age of 16. Gruesome Playground Injuries will be open October 9-12 at 7 PM each night at Cobb Theater. All productions are open to the general public. Admission for the general public is $5. Admission for RMC students, faculty, and staff is free. Call the Box Office (804) 752-7316 to reserve seats or visit bit.ly/gruesomermc

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