Playwrights have long experimented with looking at a relationship over time in a nonlinear fashion, but it took Rajiv Joseph, the breakout author of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, to imagine a pair of people who are drawn together throughout the course of 30 years due to a mutual penchant for physical calamity. Elements Theatre Collective will celebrate the beginning of its second year with a two-week, multi-venue run of Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, a run which marks the play’s West Coast debut. Injuries follows Kayleen (Marie Ponce) and Doug (Justin Stark) as they connect and reconnect in the aftermath of several life-threatening moments. One scene is set outside of the nurse’s office in an elementary school, while another takes place in a hospital emergency room, and a third at a funeral parlor. There’s even a time when Kayleen and Doug run into one another at an ice skating rink. (Don’t worry, though, most of the play’s “gruesome injuries” take place offstage.) When I asked the Elements team why people should turn out for their show, they easily reeled off half a dozen good reasons. Here are five. For information and to reserve tickets, visit elementstheatrecollective.com.
1. The Gore: “It was so important for us to have a great makeup designer like Amanda Elias,” said sound designer Emily Jewell, “because often Doug is coming onstage when he’s still bleeding.”
2. The Actors: “Marie Ponce and Justin Stark are doing great work with this script,” said director Sara Rademacher, “and people are going to be amazed by how well they negotiate the wide range of ages — from 8 to 38.”
3. The Unresolved Sexual Tension: “Are Kayleen and Doug in love? That is the question,” said Rademacher. “I think that they definitely are, but it is one of those never-consummated, best-friends-for-life situations where if anything had happened, it would have been a disaster.”
4. The Moving Target: Elements will present GPI at a total of six different venues between Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 21, including Left Coast Books in Goleta, Fishbon’s Pescadrome space, a park in Isla Vista (TBD), and Java Station on Hollister Avenue. “We’ve even got a space lined up — Motion Unlimited on De la Vina — that feels just like a doctor’s office” said Jewell.
5. It’s Free: That’s right, free. Like all of Elements’ productions, this is a free event that’s open to the public, yet the actors are getting paid. “That’s our mission” said Jewell, “to get people who otherwise might not have a chance to see a play and give them theater for free.”