Gruesome Playground Injuries — Rajiv Joseph


Received its world pre­miere at the Alley The­atre in Hous­ton, Texas on Octo­ber 16, 2009; and pre­miered in New York at the Sec­ond Stage The­atre on Jan­u­ary 31, 2011.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Kayleen (ages 3–38)        Selma Blair
Doug (ages 8–38)             Brad Fleis­cher

Direc­tor:  Rebecca Taich­man
Scenic Design:  Ric­cardo Her­nan­dez
Cos­tume Design:  Miranda Hoff­man
Light­ing Design:  Christo­pher Aker­lind
Sound Design:  Jill BC DuBoff
Dra­maturg:  Mark Bly
Stage Man­ager:  Eliz­a­beth M. Berther

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Joseph, Rajiv.  Grue­some Play­ground Injuries. Samuel French. 2012.  Drama Library, PS3610. O669 G78 2012

in Joseph, Rajiv. Grue­some Play­ground Injuries; Ani­mals out of paper ; Ben­gal tiger at the Bagh­dad Zoo: three plays. Soft Skull Press/Counterpoint, 2010.  Drama Library PS3610.O669 G78 2010

also avail­able online in Joseph, R. (2011). Grue­some Play­ground Injuries. Amer­i­can The­atre, 28(4), 64–75.

Set­ting:  Var­i­ous places; the play jumps for­ward and back­wards in time over the course of 30 years.

Lan­guage:  Contemporary


I’m not stu­pid. That’s really mean, you know? Every­one just thinks just because I’m awe­some at sports and I always get hurt that I’m stu­pid, but I’m not stu­pid, I’m just brave, that’s all. I’m brave. Don’t leave.

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic; a black com­edy where the humor is less about one-line zingers (although there are some) and more about the absurd sit­u­a­tions the char­ac­ters find them­selves in that result in their injuries.

Plot:  Over the course of 30 years, Kayleen and Doug’s lives inter­sect when one or both of them are hurt.  It doesn’t sound like a lot to base a play on, but Joseph suc­ceeds in ren­der­ing two very real and relat­able char­ac­ters who, nev­er­the­less, sus­tain very bizarre injuries.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.30:  Doug explains how he recently hurt his leg inves­ti­gat­ing an explo­sion at their old school.  [Doug’s first two lines can be cut.]   


[I know. But I got to go and inves­ti­gate the wreck­age.] I go over and the place is col­lapsed. So I hoist myself up there and I’m walk­ing on the roof and then I stepped through a weak board or some­thing and this upright nail went clear through my foot. It was about eight inches long. [Lines cut] All of a sud­den, every­thing was clear…trapped up on that roof, impaled, sur­rounded by all the angels and saints…That’s my life up there, Lee­nie. That’s my life with­out you.

p.36:  Doug recount­ing at Kayleen’s dad’s wake how he stopped by the pre­vi­ous year to see her and her dad never told her.


You know what, Kayleen? Jesus Christ, you know, I came to your house last year and your Dad was t here, and I know he hates my guts, he always has, and he’s like She is where she is.  I don’t know where the girl is. He said he didn’t care and didn’t care to know. And I was about to leave, but I didn’t. I didn’t and I said to that son of a bitch… [Lines cut] And then I told him I hoped he’d die alone. Which he did. So I feel a lit­tle guilty about that now. (Beat.) I can take care of you, Leenie.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes:   The play is a two-hander com­prised of short scenes which can be bro­ken down into sub-scenes.

p.11–12: Kayleen vis­its Doug in the hos­pi­tal after he puts out his eye with fire­works. Starts with


                The fire­works were awesome.

and ends with


                Fuck you. You know how I get. When you get hurt. You know.

p.38–39:  Kayleen and Doug meet at the ice rink where Doug now works; he is in a wheel­chair now.  Starts with


I came here to lay my hands on you, Dougie. I’ve never believed it, but I have to do it… because if you believe it, that must be enough. (Doug doesn’t answer, doesn’t look at her.) I came and saw you when you were in the coma.

and ends with


God, I don’t know… We talked about every­thing. We talked so long, it was the lat­est I’d ever stayed up in my life. It was almost morn­ing when we left the swings. It was cold, and you gave me your jacket to wear. The play­ground was so pretty just then. The sky was start­ing to be blue. (They look at the ice.)


Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Arnold, M. (2011). What’s in a Maim?. Play­bill, 29(6), 20. [Review of the Sec­ond Stage The­atre production]

Brant­ley, B. (2011, Feb 01). Love hurts, and for some cou­ples, that’s the point. New York Times. [Review of the Sec­ond Stage The­atre production]

Cof­fey, F. (2011). Two Plays by Rajiv Joseph: Grue­some Play­ground Injuries & Ben­gal Tiger at the Bagh­dad Zoo. Ecu­menica, 4(2), 89–92. [Review of the Sec­ond Stage The­atre production]

Druk­man, S. (2011). Scar Sto­ries. Amer­i­can The­atre, 28(4), 62–63. [Inter­view with Rajiv Joseph]

Evans, E. (2009, Oct 23). Tak­ing risks pays off for grue­some play­ground GRUESOME: Injury-prone char­ac­ters are made for each other. Hous­ton Chron­i­cle. [Review of pre­miere pro­duc­tion in Houston]

Gard­ner, L. (2013). Grue­some Play­ground Injuries: Guardian. The­atre Record, 33(1/2), 33. [Review of the revival of the play at the Gate The­atre in Lon­don, 2013]

Marks, P. (2010, May 25). Com­plex friend­ship sus­tains ‘injuries’; vignettes explore a bond strength­ened by sad­ness and pain. The Wash­ing­ton Post. [Review of 2010 Woolly Mam­moth pro­duc­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC]

Maxwell, D. (2013). Grue­some Play­ground Injuries: The Times. The­atre Record, 33(1/2), 33–34. [Review of the revival of the play at the Gate The­atre in Lon­don, 2013]

Mount­ford, F. (2013). Grue­some Play­ground Injuries: Evening Stan­dard. The­atre Record, 33(1/2), 33.

New­mark, J. (2011, Nov 02). ‘Injuries’ is more an exer­cise than a play; the­ater review; sad-sack cou­ple are thrown together in times of cri­sis, mostly med­ical. St.Louis Post — Dis­patch. [Review of Sound­stage pro­duc­tion, 2011]

She­ward, D. (2011). Grue­some Play­ground Injuries. Back Stage (19305966), 52(5), 49. [Review of the Sec­ond Stage The­atre production]

Sid­dhartha, R. (2012, Feb 08). Not so grue­some: Play­ground injuries. East­ern Eye.  [Review of the revival of the play at the Gate The­atre in Lon­don, 2013]

Soloski, A. (2011, Feb 02). Grue­some play­ground injuries-rajiv joseph’s scar trek. (open access) The Vil­lage Voice.  [Review of the Sec­ond Stage The­atre production]

Weinert-Kendt, R. (2009). Wounded By Love. Amer­i­can The­atre, 26(9), 22. [Review of orig­i­nal Hous­ton production]

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