Gruesome Playground Injuries Rasaka Theatre Company

July 5th - Aug 5th.   Tickets $25 with $15/20 for Students and Seniors. 

Highly Recommended - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times 8/3/12

"..well-served by Lavina Jadhwani’s fleet and funny production." Zach Thompson, TimeOut Chicago 7/12/12

Don't-Miss "One greets with pleasure Rasaka's Chicago premiere of Rajiv Joseph's 2010 play Gruesome Playground Injuries" - WBEZ Dueling Critics July 2012


By Rajiv Joseph 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Box office: 312-777-1070

07/05/12 - 08/05/12

Thu-Sat 8p; Sun 4p

Highly Recommended - Summertime gems: A Chicago debut and a reinvented classic deliver - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Tribune 8/3/12.  "Chicago’s summer theater season was once a fairly sleepy time during which fledgling troupes tried their luck staging shows in storefronts offering “off-season” rental rates. Not any more.

Consider these two exceptional shows: The brilliantly conceived revival of Harold Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter”
now being produced by TUTA Theatre Company (whose longtime artistic director, Zeljko Djukic, is about to head off to Belgrade, Serbia on a Fulbright Fellowship), and the poignant, quirky Rajiv Joseph play, “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” mounted by Rasaka Theatre Company, the troupe founded in 2004 that bills itself as “the Midwest’s first South Asian-American ensemble.”

Here’s a closer look at each:

 ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’

Watching Rasaka’s splendid Chicago debut of Rajiv Joseph’s unsettling yet beguiling 2009 play, “Gruesome
Playground Injuries,” I kept thinking of lyrics from the musical “Spring Awakening” sung by two emotionally
probing teens: “O, you’re gonna be wounded; O, you’re gonna be my wound.”

Joseph’s two-character, 90-minute drama traces the up-and-down relationship between Doug (Tim Martin, darkly
goofy and hapless) and Kayleen (the breathtakingly beautiful and gifted Mouzam Makkar). Fittingly, the two meet
 “cute” in their grade school nurse’s office, and over the next few decades go on to engage in a deep if often
fractured relationship that could keep any psychiatrist busy.

The bond between them is oddly but touchingly cemented by their predilection for physical and psychological injuries,
 a good number of which are self-inflicted. Doug claims to be accident-prone, but his injuries are attention-getters
that smack of masochism. Kayleen also seriously hurts herself. And yes, their wounds are gruesome (and also comical at
 times). Yet the power of their love and friendship to heal (if not prevent) these wounds, is heartbreaking.

While all this might be seen as a very extended metaphor, it exerts a strange and genuine tug. And Lavinia Jadhwani,
Rasaka’s artistic director, has staged the play with an elegant minimalism that keeps Joseph’s tricky tragicomedy at
once painfully real and weirdly twisted, with the actors’ frequent onstage clothing changes telling little scenes of their own.

NOTE: Lookingglass Theatre will produce Joseph’s more high-profile play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” this winter,  but “Injuries” is an ideal introduction to this gifted playwright’s work.


Gruesome Playground Injuries - Zac Thompson, TimeOutChicago 7/12/12.  "Doug and Kayleen are lifelong friends who get hurt a lot. Like, a lot. In the 30 years covered by Rajiv Joseph’s 2009 play—spanning the protagonists’ lives from ages 8 to 38—Doug rides his bike off a roof, loses an eye in a fireworks accident, falls off a telephone  pole and gets struck by lightning, among other misadventures. Kayleen, meanwhile, is prone to  psychic and emotional injuries: She cuts herself on purpose, has cruel parents, pops pills and  drinks too much. Clearly, the two of them are a match made in the ICU. Skipping back and forth  in time, Joseph depicts their halting and frequently thwarted attempts to heal each other.

This could all get very emo, but Joseph (best known for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which  was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010) maintains a buoyant tone throughout. He displays a  special talent for blending heavy themes with a playful quirkiness that stops just short of being  too cutesy. His script is well-served by Lavina Jadhwani’s fleet and funny production, which features  a spare, blue-and-white scenic design (by Roger Wykes) that alternately suggests a hospital room and  a hockey rink.

Mouzam Makkar’s Kayleen has too much poise to be convincing as either a kid or a basket case, but she  does have lots of chemistry with Tim Martin’s Doug. It’s Martin who stands out, subtly conveying the masochistic streak underlying Doug’s boyish daredevilry."


Gruesome Playground Injuries - —Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader 7/12/12. "A pair of self-destructive lovers pick at each others' scabs—both literally and metaphorically—in this 2009 two-hander.   Rajiv Joseph's tender, thoughtful script chronicles Doug and Kayleem's relationship from schoolyard crush to thorny thirtysomething affair. Lavina Jadhwani's Rasaka Theatre Company staging pushes past the angst inherent in the material  and grounds itself in something more genuine: the mixed blessing of love between people who have endless empathy for others  but none for themselves. Tim Martin is at once pitiable and endearing as extroverted klutz Doug; Mouzam Makkar is searing as the
 insular depressive he longs for"


Gruesome Playground Injuries - Johnny Oleksinski, NewCity Chicago 7/12/12.  "They say to “write what you know.” A wise but awfully frustrating piece of advice from the alluringly ominous “they,” for no one clamors to gain an awareness of their own limitations. But boy can it pay off. Playwright Rajiv Joseph, whose “Bengal  Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” was both Tony nominated and Pulitzer short-listed, wrote his “Gruesome Playground Injuries” in 2009
 when he was a spry thirty-five-year-old. A coming-of-age story of unlikely romance and happenstance convergence, the play is  an affecting thirty-year journey and an emotionally accurate depiction of contemporary adolescence. And it’s Joseph’s close proximity  to the oldest age that his two characters reach, thirty-eight, and his comfortable distance apart from the youngest, eight, that contribute  a nostalgia and a striking reality to his tender and supremely intelligent play. “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is receiving its Chicago  premiere by Rasaka Theatre Company at the Chopin Theatre in a compellingly intimate and terrifically acted production.

The Chopin, already among my favorite houses in the city, proves its impressive malleability once again, here, becoming a hospital  room, absent of extraneous detail (scenic design by Roger Wykes) for some of the most generous, receptive acting I have seen onstage  in months. This beloved space has an extensive, rich history of artistic presentation that, like a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, retains  the essence of all that has played its eclectic catacombs. The Chopin’s legacy lends itself immensely to this particular play, whose ambitious  timespan and occasionally heavy subject matter are aided enormously by the crypt’s magical, mystical ambiance. The theater itself, like the two actors playing children, teenagers, twentysomethings and thirty-three-year-olds, feels jubilantly lost in time. The two friends and eternally bound souls are the winsome Doug (Tim Martin) and Kayleen (Mouzam Makkar). Though the burgeoning lovebirds spend
 an intermissionless ninety minutes onstage together, they never once encounter each other on mutually agreed purpose. More often than not, they  are united coincidentally through one of Doug’s offstage daredevil misfires. With the injury acting as the icebreaker, Kayleen and Doug assist  each other through many of life’s seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Never preachy and always grounded, each of Joseph’s scenes is a carefully  crafted, phosphorescent gem that, when put together with the others, forges an illuminating whole.

While not a favored epic, don’t be tricked. This is hardly an easy play to put on. In the hands of a less capable director and actors, Joseph’s  play could quickly descend into the depths of kitsch and become supercilious, like so much theatre that features adult actors playing children.   But Rasaka Artistic Director Lavina Jadhwani knows the inherent strengths of her space, most notably the absolute necessity for honest, present  conversation. And honest, the conversation is. Martin and Makkar are careful and caring listeners who have a truthful concern for each other’s well being. Makkar’s soft-spoken Kayleen is driven by an unquenchable curiosity of the wider world around her. Martin, a young actor to definitely
 keep an eye on, doesn’t allow Doug’s personality to become defined by self-destructiveness or symptomatic of masochism. What I saw in his actions was familiar suburban boredom, manifested in thoughtless stupidity—a kid. Martin portrays Doug’s adoration of Kayleen with wide-eyed  openness that’s neither forced nor precious. The two performers, during long transitional sequences, switch wardrobes and apply their new blood and guts. And while questionably integral to the piece, the connecting music does occasionally have the tonal syrupiness of an indie romance film.

Doug and Kayleen’s injuries escalate in literal severity as the play treks on. Initially schoolyard cuts and scrapes, these layered characters endure lost eyes, comas and scary self-inflicted wounds. My squeamishness forced me to look away once or twice, but the play’s drive and focus never falls upon the injury itself. Like the most traumatic events in life, be them physical or emotional, these subtly metaphoric injuries open doors for personal growth and reaffirm the characters’ and the audience’s faith in humanity’s optimistic spirit. Gruesome though these battle wounds  may be, beauty reigns supreme in this charming production".


From the Director.  An accident prone dare devil and a corrosive masochist navigate friendship, love and the squishy parts that lie between. In Pulitzer-nominee Rajiv Joseph's masterful play, 8 year olds Doug and Kayleen meet in a school  nurse's office, beginning a lifelong intimacy which is revealed through the physical and emotional injuries  they sustain over 30 years. Truly a different type of love story, Gruesome Playground Injuries will leave you  smarting from its sharp humor and sharper insights.     Written by Rajiv Joseph , a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Tickets $25 with $15/20 for Students and Seniors.  

Previews $12 on July 5 & 6th
Industry Night $15 July 9th

Box office: 312-777-1070

Rajiv Joseph

Lavinia Jadhwani

Mouzam Makkar and Tim Martin

Scenic Design - Roger Wykes; Costume Design - Rachel M. Sypniewski; Light Design Sally Weiss; Sound Design - Laura Wiley; Dramaturg - Kristin Idaszak; Stage manager - Caitlin O'Rourke

Tags: Theater, Asian, 2012