Love Hurts in “Gruesome Playground Injuries”

Student theater group The Green Room presented Rajiv Joseph’s play “Gruesome Playground Injuries” last weekend. Staff Writer Mila Massaki Gomes ’27 reviews the play’s complex “push and pull” narrative.

On Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, the student-run theater company The Green Room presented their very own production of Rajiv Joseph’s play “Gruesome Playground Injuries.” Bloody, sick, touching, and funny are probably not the first things that come to mind when I think of playground accidents, but The Green Room’s performances showed how intense even the most ordinary events can be when shared with the right (or maybe wrong) person.

Before the lights dimmed, Director Erin Williams ’26 took the stage to explain that The Green Room “found a space for queer voices in ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’” within the original script, where the character of Danielle was originally Doug. They hoped to communicate the complexities and challenges in all sorts of relationships through the story of Kayleen (Sofia Fichman ’27) and Danielle (Skyla Monroe ’27).

The story explores the entirety of the girls’ relationship from ages eight to 38, but it all starts at the nurse’s office of a religious school, with two beds and the stage lit with shades of purple and blue. Kayleen had just thrown up, and Danielle sported an awful cut on her eye after deciding to ride a bike off the roof. The audience comes to learn that neither throwing up nor willingly partaking in radical near-death experiences are anomalies in the two girls’ lives, and these sorts of events become awfully common as they age. Kayleen struggles with depression and self-harm throughout her life, while Dani makes wild, adventurous, and often ill-fated decisions. As the play hurtles through their relationship, the two girls fight a game of desire, comfort, and repulsiveness toward each other and their habits. From Kayleen’s self-harm and the death of her uncaring father to Dani losing an eye through her impulsiveness, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” isn’t shy about life’s more gruesome aspects.

In their own desperate attempts, Kayleen and Dani find ways to make life a simultaneous experience of hurt and relief. Through failed school dances, funerals, kisses, and medical complications, The Green Room’s adaptation shows just how deep pain and love run in the relationship of these two complicated souls. To the audience, this relationship quickly became a journey of both laughter and remorse.

Williams explains that The Green Room chose to take on “Gruesome Playground Injuries” as their newest production because of its “seemingly low-tech staging.” The various settings (from school to hospitals and even funerals) were all done with no more than two chairs, two beds, and a wheelchair. However, there was nothing “simple” about what took life on the stage, as the empty spaces seemed to be completely filled with the presence and interactions between Kayleen and Dani. As the two girls argue about bad boyfriends and high school drama, the single bed in the center of the stage is transformed into a teenager's bedroom. Through their matching plaid skirts and collared white shirts, the two white beds became stretchers in a school nurse's office — its emptiness filled with the newness of a relationship between kids.

Though definitely emotional and even poetic at times, when The Student asked about the intention and message behind “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” Williams explained that the hope was far from attempting to “romanticize the story of two very complicated people who have very unhealthy ways of coping with life.” Williams said that “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is about the push and pull between two people who can’t help but love and hurt each other simultaneously.

The show ends when the two decide it is best to part ways. In their intricate game of leaving and returning to each other at full speed over and over again, it doesn’t take much to recognize that, despite their love and connection, they do each other more harm than good — always contributing to each other’s self-destructive habits. After countless injuries, bruises, and open wounds, Dani and Kayleen learn that loving each other also means letting go and leaving the playground of their relationship for a better, less gruesome world that waits outside.