Review: Gruesome Playground Injuries (Birdland Theatre)

GPI Press Photo Peter Mooney Janet Porter

Finally, some medicine to cure what ails us in Toronto’s Gruesome Playground Injuries

The Gruesome Playground Injuries experience begins before entering Toronto’s The Theatre Centre.

As we approached the theatre, my friend Mike opened the door. We both saw and felt “it”. Mike made a comment about the fog from the machine. We felt something far more powerful, more otherworldly and seductive as we entered the 123-year-old building.

Sometimes when you walk into a theatre you see an exquisite set. You’re impressed and think, “this is going to be great! Think of the time and money that went into that!” A few minutes into the play, you feel like you are looking at a fake mountain at an amusement park. Gruesome Playground Injuries is just the opposite.

One is immediately enveloped upon entering The Theatre Centre. As we proceeded to our seats, we were further submerged into Gruesome Playground Injuries’ ambience.

I was stunned before the play began. Joseph Pagnan has created a set that is an enticing work of art. This is the result of vision and hard work. It’s human, tactile and organic. It’s not Hollywood gimmickry.

When the play begins, we dive headfirst into the world of Kayleen (Janet Porter) and Doug (Peter Mooney). We follow them through three decades and numerous injuries.

It’s incredible to see the actors morph from playground children into crippled old adults. Both actors are convincing throughout the play.

Watching Gruesome Playground Injuries is like reminiscing with a close family member. It is also like a walk through one’s own memory. It’s a bit like taking a step back from one’s self and peeking inside our foggy memory.

Porter and Mooney have obvious chemistry. They make the bond between Kayleen and Doug believable and real. They share the powerful “it” we feel but can’t put into words.

Both are in tremendous physical health. Professional soccer players have nothing on these two!

Soccer players kick a ball around for 90 minutes, but it is largely one-dimensional. Porter and Mooney have roles that are as physically demanding and at the same time, they kick around eternal questions about love, mortality and the nature of being for 90 minutes.

Porter and Mooney transform before our eyes physically and emotionally. It is remarkable to watch the two “between scenes”.

Pulitzer nominated Rajiv Joseph conjured up this world. Joseph was a writer for a couple of seasons on Nurse Jackie. I mention this because while watching Gruesome Playground Injuries, I felt a bit like I was watching a brilliant serial or television show.

Gruesome Playground Injuries has nasty physical violence like Jackass or Tosh.O. The difference is that the violence is not real in the play. Gruesome Playground Injuries has essentials like character development and plot. It doesn’t laugh at the misfortune of others. It asks universal questions and heals. There’s no “salt in the wounds” here.

I find the care, skill and courage of everyone involved in Gruesome Playground Injuries enticing and sexy, even though I find Jackass et al. repulsive and without merit.

This all sounds very dark, preachy and heavy-handed but Gruesome Playground Injuries is healthy and life affirming. You will smile your way throughout the play. You will feel better afterwards.

If Gruesome Playground Injuries were music, it would be like a Shirley Manson song. The subject matter is dark and nasty, but talking about it, singing about it, is good medicine. It’s punk rock gone right. Both Shirley and Gruesome Playground Injuries turn lemons into lemonade, harm into healing.

The one thing Mike and I didn’t like about Gruesome Playground Injuries is being reminded that women change outfits much quicker onstage than in real life.

Details:
Gruesome Playground Injuries is playing at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen Street West) until May 13, 2012
-Shows run Tuesday to Sunday at 7:30 with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30
-Ticket prices range from $20 – $30
-Tickets are available online, or by calling 416-538-0988

photo of Janet Porter and Peter Mooney by Guntar Kravis

 

4 thoughts on “Review: Gruesome Playground Injuries (Birdland Theatre)”

  1. I saw the show last night and it is still haunting me today. I thought it was immensely sad, as far as the lives of these two soul-mates who can never seem to quite connect, but also quite funny and so poignant and beautiful. The production is stunning, with two incredible (and incredibly attractive) performers who are so at ease with each other and have so much chemistry. The design of the space and the video, lighting and sound just took my breath away. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. I saw the show last night and it is still haunting me today. I thought it was immensely sad, as far as the lives of these two soul-mates who can never seem to quite connect, but also quite funny and so poignant and beautiful. The production is stunning, with two incredible (and incredibly attractive) performers who are so at ease with each other and have so much chemistry. The design of the space and the video, lighting and sound just took my breath away. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

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