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]