The thing about love — the most dangerous thing, the part that keeps a certain sort of nervous person up at night — is the fact that once you really, truly love somebody, no one will ever be able to hurt you like he or she can. “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which just began its D.C. premiere at Woolly Mammoth, knows all about love. And all about hurt.
The story follows Doug (a radiant Tim Getman) and Kayleen (Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, who nails a difficult role) for 30 years from their meeting at the age of 8. Doug is, from the get-go, prone to hurting himself — always by doing something that sane people might think twice before attempting, like riding his bike off the roof. Kayleen suffers from nervous conditions — a sensitive stomach and a propensity for self-mutilation. Their relationship hovers for years on the edge of something more, until the play gently prods us to acknowledge that, as damaging and confusing and unsatisfying as it is, their closeness and love and dependence are something more than most of us will ever feel.
The play itself uses what might in the hands of a lesser team come off as gimmicks — time shifts, onstage costume changes, some creative lip-synching and breaking of the fourth wall. It all takes, as it should, a backseat to the central drama of two people in a relationship that’s more complicated and valuable than your basic boy-meets-girl, boy-chases-girl, boy-and-girl-get-it-together. Doug and Kayleen can’t. And it hurts. But that’s love.
» Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW; through June 16, $27-$62; 202-393-3939. (Metro Center)
Photo by Stan Barouhj