Gruesome Playground Injuries" by Rajiv Joseph tells the story of two individuals over the course of their lives and the injuries, both physical and emotional, that bring them together.
"Gruesome" is part of the "2x4BASH" series of plays being staged at The Western Stage in Salinas.
Put bluntly, I love the concept. After all, we as individuals are defined by the hurt we experience in our youth.
Unfortunately, the written execution fails on the concept.
There are so many genuine and cathartic moments performed by Heather Osteraa in the role of Kayleen and Nathan Liittschwager as Doug. But there are also the moments where the writing becomes trite and terse due to the lack of sincerity and the author's reliance on cliches.
It is incredibly disappointing to see such juxtaposition between the fidelity to childhood and the author's banal view of adulthood.
Vignettes into the younger days of the couple show a truly authentic slice of life that is absolutely relatable to the audience.
The moments that depict the characters as adults, however, lose this authenticity in the writing.
People may age, but deep down inside everyone retains their childhood hopes and fears in the greatest recesses of the psyche.
At about halfway through the script, the author loses sight of this, and this is where the play falters. The audience waits patiently until a return to the characters' younger years to regain a connection to the story.
Liittschwager, who performed superbly in The Western Stage's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" earlier this season, does an amazing job in his role.
Likewise, Osteraa is convincing as the girl next door whose emotional trauma is manifested through stomach ailments.
Indeed, their comedic timing is well-executed and even though I struggled to believe them as adult lovers, I attribute this to writing, not to performance.
Also commendable is sound designer Christina Marie Perez. Since the play spans 30 years, the audience is oriented to the time through music.
Thirty-somethings across the Central Coast can float down memory lane through carefully selected popular music, delighting in personal memories from childhood.
This is the real theme of the play, after all. We are each irrevocably connected to our past, the good and the bad, first loves, first heartbreaks, and the scars we see and the scars we don't.GO!
·What: 2x4BASH presents "Gruesome Playground Injuries" by Rajiv Joseph
·Where: Studio Theater, 411 Central Ave., Salinas
·When: Continues at 7:30p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 and 16
·Tickets: $10 general, $5 for students with ID; BASHPass (all three shows): $20, at www.westernstage.com or at The Western Stage Box Office, 4-7p.m. Wed-Sat (open on performance weekends Saturday until 8:30p.m. and Sunday noon-3p.m.) or at 755-6816
·Information: 755-6981, www.westernstage.com