By Michael M. Humel
I recently watched a showing of Gruesome playground injuries at Cockroach Theater in Arts Square directed by Levi Fackrell. A childlike story in its innocence gruesome spans thirty years between two lifelong friends who seem early on to have feelings for one another that go deeper than the injuries they encounter during the play. The characters Doug and Kayleen are visited in captions of their lives from ages eight to thirty eight.
The two meet at school when Doug played by Shawn Hackler has his first injury that runs the spectrum from a bloody eye to falling off a roof. Shawn Hacklers humorous naivety and curiosity in the young stages of his character is a truthful portrayal of a young boy trying different things. His constant asking of questions and the way he acts so young gets the audience laughing. When he grows older and in a sense is forced to grow up a little it becomes harder to believe the more serious side to his character. However, the obvious range of Hacklers acting shines through. Kayleen played by Felicia Taylor seems to be the intelligent mature one with a dark secret of self-infliction that comes out in portions throughout the play. The serious nature of Kayleen is best displayed in a scene when she is trying to wake a comatose Doug pleading with him to be ok because she came too to see him. Her performance left some of the audience members in tears. The painful family life of Kayleen is described in a scene when Doug and Kayleen are talking about her father’s funeral and you can see the pain in Taylors eyes as she goes through a moment of wanting to be alone, what seems like wanting to be with Doug and anger at her father.
The sound design by Mary McFadden displays a series of songs that play during the times when the actors are changing clothes and healing injuries. The selection of songs and the actors dancing and singing while preparing for the next scene gave the play a fun element that helped the breaks in the performance seem almost non existent. The songs themselves brought back memories from when the songs were released. The set design was simple and did not over power the actors and let them tell the story. The makeup by Georgia Richardson gave a sense of reality of what the characters were going through. The play itself was left open and left me confused. However, the performances left me wanting more.