We first became aware of The Wilbury Group when this collaboration of artists presented a powerful “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at the Perishable Theatre space. They have come back with a vengeance, this time with Rajiv Joseph’s new two-character play, “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” also at Perishable.
Brilliantly directed by Mark Peckham, the eight-scene play covers a period of 30 years in eight mesmerizing scenes. Performed in about an hour and 20 minutes without intermission, the play uses a multitude of props scattered around the small performance space, many of which reveal things about the two characters.
The actors remain onstage between scenes, changing their clothes, their ages and their situations right before our eyes using cardboard boxes, marked with the scene number and title, to stash their clothing.
The scenes intersect at different ages, ranging from eight to 38, revealing the unusual bond between Kayleen and Doug, two troubled, self-destructive individuals.
Amber Kelly and Josh Short have their characters down perfectly, making subtle transitions through the ages. I swore at one point that Kayleen was being played by another actress.
Scene 1 opens with Kayleen and Doug discussing Doug’s recent adventure, riding his bike off the roof and “splitting his face open” in the scene labeled “Face Split Open.” He is obsessed with hurting himself, and she is obsessed with the hurt.
We then meet the pair again at age 23, with Doug having “Eye Blown Out.” We meet them again at 13, 28, 18, 33, 23 and finally 38. Amazingly, the transitions are easy to follow and, thanks to Peckham’s direction, flow smoothly.
Is Doug accident prone, or does he have a death wish? Is Kayleen a self-destructive person who is crying out for help? Are they both in their own strange ways dependent on each other? Are all their scars physical and emotional?
They enter and leave each other’s lives, always reconnecting over painful experiences. They are literally two lost souls who seek their independence while still depending on each other’s support.
While the play raises a number of serious questions and delves into the psychological implications of their actions, it still has a humorous side to it.
The author leaves you with a glimmer of hope and a disturbing insight into self-destructive people. It is one of the more interesting and thought-provoking plays of our time.
“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is presented by the Wilbury Group at Perishable Theatre, 95 Empire St., Providence, through Oct. 30. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday (pay what you can) at 2 p.m. For more information, go to www.thewilburygroup.com.