See below from Anna Moskowitz and Zoe Brown’s production of Gruesome Playground Injuries, which was showing from Thursday the 20th to Sunday the 23rd in Los Angeles.
I recently had the delight of attending a Thursday evening performance of one of playwright Rajiv Joseph’s strongest pieces, Gruesome Playground Injuries, which was executive produced by Zoe Brown, and produced by Drew Woodruff and Andrew Simon, at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop. This production was powerfully directed by Anna Moskowitz featuring Hope Luna as Kayleen and Andrew Simon as Doug. Gruesome Playground Injuries is a dark comedy exploring Doug and Kayleen’s relationship as they reconnect sporadically over the course of 30 years, usually through unfortunate events.
The intimate space the show was produced in featured audience seating on both sides of the playing area. Initially I was curious to see if the show would be visible from our corner seat but was delighted by the deliberate and well thought out blocking by director Moskowitz which kept the stage picture ever-changing and engaging from all angles. I found both performers’ grounded approach to the darkly comedic material refreshing as we saw their two characters continue to reconnect in the story over the course of their 30-year relationship. The cast balanced the overall dark tones with the dry comedic undertone that is ever present throughout the show. This kept the story both grounded and engaging as the pair’s relationship continued to complicate.
Upon first entering the space while the show was seating, I thought the various elements present in the space were rather random; a classroom skeleton with an eye patch, a set of lockers in the corner, a baseball bat leaning against a wall, and a couple of hospital beds. As the story unfolded and we moved through time different elements of the seemingly chaotic set began to come into play and form the overall picture of the characters’ connection. I appreciated the director’s thoughtful use of the limited space they had in this way.
As I touched on earlier, both actors in this production were excellent. Andrew Simon gave us an intensely flawed portrait of a man trying to find his place and Hope Luna served as the strong willed and equally lost counter part to this performance. Each commanded the stage at different moments of the show allowing for glimpses of comedy in what, on the surface, appeared to be completely bleak circumstances. Their connection to the material and one another as scene partners was evident and helped to uplift the story to a particularly engaging level.
Gruesome Playground Injuries is one of the strongest plays by a powerful young playwright and I was happy to see the work brought to life in a poignant and intimate setting with this production. The thoughtful use of space and deliberate choices by both performers and director Moskowitz all served to bring together an incredibly enjoyable night of theatre.
You can read more about Anna via her IMDb, and Zoe via her LinkedIn.
- Director: Anna Moskowitz
- Executive Producer: Zoe Brown
- Producers: Andrew Simon, Drew Woodruff
- Actors: Hope Luna, Andrew Simon
- Playwright: Rajiv Joseph
- Play: Gruesome Playground Injuries