Two of my favorite actors in Burlington make up the entire cast of Gruesome Playground Injuries, which opened tonight at the Off Center for the Dramatic Arts. In fact, the promise of Jordan Gullikson and Chris Caswell onstage together drew me to Rajiv Joseph's intense — and intensely interesting — play despite its off-putting title.
I'm tempted to give a mini review here, but I won't. Seven Days theater critic Alex Brown will provide that in next week's issue. Suffice it to say that Gruesome, which starts out in a school nurse's office following a playground injury, far surpasses childhood mishaps.
In a series of nonchronological vignettes about the entwined lives of Kayleen and Doug over 30 years, it reveals deepening layers and kinds of hurt that adults can bear. At times you just want to reach out and give these two a hug; at other times, you want to slap them.
By turns sweet, funny, wrenching and horrifying, the play could have been titled Walking Wounded. But I suppose Gruesome Playground Injuries is more provocative.
Joseph's one-act was a finalist for a Pulitzer in 2010. In 2011, it was presented by Second Stage Theatre in New York City. In 2013, Heat & Hot Water Production's staging with Gullikson and Caswell, directed by Mark Alan Gordon, deserves to be seen. On opening night, fewer than 10 people did.
So I'm doing my bit to urge you: Go. This Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., plus Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.; and next week, May 8-11, same deal.
Photo courtesy of stage manager Dylan Friedman.