Dallas Thomas as Kayleen and Christopher Johnson as Doug in 'Gruesome Playground Injuries' by Rajiv Joseph. -- Credit: Abril Castillo


Here’s how memory works:

Time gets jumbled. You cherish something from 10 years ago, 14, 8, 6, 23, 2 — memory is mixed up like that.

And that’s how Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” unfolds — back and forth, forth and back.

It’s the story of two friends who meet in the nurses office while in elementary school. Then it jumps forward 15 years, back 10, and so on.

Everytime they meet, one or the other is wrestling with a physical — or psychic — calamity. These two are seriously accident prone, and the wounds are deep, deep and not just physical. And they are constantly hit with this: love hurts. Literally.

Christopher Johnson and Dallas Thomas play the two friends in this 80-minute, one-act directed by Evan Werner.

We believe the love/hate relationship, the injuries, the suffering. Johnson’s jitteriness, Thomas’ aloofness, thinly disguised his angst, her hunger. Both are painfully isolated.

They bring this Rajiv Joseph play to life. Joseph, a fairly new playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2009 “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” seems to embrace the quirky, the dark, and the humorous.

This play is all those. But it is also not very satisfying — the characters take an odd journey that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

Now, I’ve had a few journeys like that myself, and sometimes the journey is the point, not the destination.

Still, “Gruesome” lacks nuanced characters and a nuanced story.

Yet, like each other’s injuries that the characters' feel compelled to touch and explore, there’s something about this production that keeps audiences right there.

And there is this: it takes mountains of courage to get on stage to act; even more to act in a play that is new and strange and not necessarily “audience friendly.” That Winding Road has the guts to stage such works, and stage them well, is impressive. And worthy of our attention — and attendance.