Saturday, April 22, 2023

GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Doug and Kayleen meet in the nurse’s office at school when they’re eight years old. He’s busted up his face after riding his bike off the school roof, and she’s got stomach problems. There’s a curious examination of each other’s wounds, external and internal, carried out with all of the contrary ardor and aversion of children, and a bond is formed. The play unfolds in non-chronological scenes spanning their decades-long friendship as they drift apart, reconnect, and attempt to mend the other’s hurts.

Gruesome Playground Injuries marks the return of the Steve Woolf Studio Series, and the intimate Strauss Black Box Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center is a perfect spot for it. Playwright Rajiv Joseph balances humor and poignancy during his sequence of vignettes, but we don’t end up learning a ton about the hapless protagonists during its 80-minute exploration of shared damages. Luckily, the direction and performances keep the play from wearing out its welcome.