LOOK CLOSELY And don’t shy away from Gruesome Playground Injuries.
Many discerning thespians in Portland will confide that one of their top shows of all time around here was Killer Joe, the dark Tracy Letts drama exquisitely produced at SPACE Gallery by Sean Mewshaw in 2011. Mewshaw is back at SPACE with a new project: a striking multi-media production of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries. This unnerving drama skips around in time with Kayleen (Mary-Bonner Baker) and Doug (Alex Quijano) and their fascinated attraction to the grisliest of each other’s wounds.
The superb, utterly riveting Baker and Quijano, who recently played these roles for Mewshaw in workshop shows in Los Angeles, here perform in a three-quarter round on the floor, with ragged strips of white cloth hanging above them. These evoke the bandages that bind the love of this reeling couple, as when, in an early scene in a late-night hospital ward (at age 23), Doug unwinds gauze from his bloody eye socket and insists that a drunken Kayleen “touch it.”
All the make-up and costume changes happen on stage, to vertiginous and intimate effect amplified by the production design: when Baker and Quijano retreat down center, to powder and bloody themselves, a video camera and two-way mirror help project, onto a lunar half-sphere on the back wall, a distorted live view of what they are seeing.
In its time-shifts, and its sense of inevitability it recalls Harold Pinter’s lyrical reverse-time Betrayal, but it is also profane, frequently hilarious, awash in blood and vomit, and bewitchingly fucked up. I will be getting to this one early for a seat right up front — it’ll be gruesome but hard to look away, and I want to be as close as possible.
Gruesome Playground Injuries | by Rajiv Joseph | Directed by Sean Mewshaw | Presented at SPACE Gallery, through June 8 | space538.org/events/gruesome-playground-injuries
, Sean Mewshaw