Photos courtesy of Autumn Rinaldi

Play: Gruesome Playground Injuries

Group: R-S Theatrics

Venue: Soundstage Productions Theater, 220 Crestwood Court, Watson at Sappington

Dates: November 4, 5, 6

Tickets: $12; contact 968-8070 or

Story: Doug and Kayleen seem meant for each other in a Wuthering Heights sort of way. We first meet them at age 8, when both visit their parochial school infirmary. She’s having stomach problems, which seem to emanate logically from her brittle, sarcastic demeanor. Doug, on the other hand, has arrived with facial injuries brought about by an unsuccessful attempt to ride his bike off the school roof a la Evel Knievel.

The straightforward, inquisitive Doug strikes up a conversation with the brusque Kayleen, a conversation that continues off and on for the next 30 years at five-year intervals. Each and every time we see them, one or both is suffering from some physical mishap or malady, with additional psychological problems for Kayleen. Accident-prone Doug has the happier home background, but both seem to drift through life without the anchor of a solid, lasting relationship. Lovers come and go, but will Doug and Kayleen ever see the light of love between them before a more permanent tragedy occurs?

Highlights: Playwright Rajiv Joseph was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for another of his works, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, a nomination that makes sense based on the considerable skill he shows in this one-act, 60-minute effort that premiered in Houston in 2009. R-S Theatrics, which introduced the brilliant Suicide, Inc. to local audiences earlier this year, scores another triumph with a deftly directed, beautifully acted production that does splendid service to Joseph’s pair of quixotic characters.

Other Info: Husband and wife performers Mark Kelley and Christina Rios bring an obvious chemistry to the roles of Doug and Kayleen. What they also add is a fine flair for the work’s many comic moments as well as tender interpretation for the poignancy and longing that cry out throughout the drama.

Kelley is adept at some fine physical comedy, getting optimal humor out of his gangly body, and also rings true when playing an 8-year-old or a 13-year-old as much as the adult versions of Doug. Rios, who capably doubles as co-director along with R-S Theatrics artistic director Randy Stinebaker, is equally adept at impersonating a petulant child as she is a foul-mouthed teenager or an aimless adult. Key to the production’s success is the ability of the pair to play off each other in both comic and dramatic scenes, at which both excel.

There’s an interesting, uncredited sound design choice of Bolero, which makes sense as the scenes are repetitive in situations but also build to a crescendo as the work reaches its climax. The set is simple, just a hospital cot and a bench and two areas where the respective performers change their wardrobes for various scenes. Props master Meg Brinkley provides an array of amusing bandages, crutches, wheelchairs, etc. to reinforce the “blown-out eye,” “sprained ankle,” “tooth and nail” and other afflictions that describe each scene in conjunction with the respective age of the characters.

While you may be frustrated by the tragic inability of these two characters to achieve fulfillment or happiness, Gruesome Playground Injuries provides a winning vehicle for Kelley and Rios to showcase their charm and talents.

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.