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By Dana Casadei
Friendships come and go, some last, some quickly dissolve, but there are others that are so special that even through distance, fighting and everything else you would still be there in an instant for them, and once together it's as if you hadn't spent more than a few hours apart instead of years.
In the Michigan premiere of Rajiv Joseph's "Gruesome Playground Injuries" at The Elizabeth Theatre, that special kind of friendship is what Doug (Peter Prouty) and Kayleen (Kelly Komlen-Amadei) have.
The show begins with the two of them meeting for the first time at age 8 in the nurse's office, then alternates between going forward 15 years and then backward 10, ending with them both at 38, each scarred in more way than one.
Spanning across 30 years in the 90-minute performance, each of the eight scenes revolves around a new injury for one of the duo, ranging from an eye blown out by a firework to others that are much more internal and psychological. Each scene discusses the history between the two friends and foreshadows some of what's to come, but really just adds to the depth of this guardian angel-like friendship, each being the life support for the other.
While the ages of the characters vary, both Prouty and Komlen-Amadei give breathtaking performances, no matter the age.
As 8 year olds, they both have childlike innocence and actions, such as the way their conversation ping-pongs between everything and nothing, while as teenagers they're both awkward in a way that any 13 year old would be.
But as adults is where they both have their shining moments not soon to be forgotten.
For Prouty it happens during Scene 7 – "Twenty-Three: Tooth and Nail." He's still the Doug we have seen earlier, but there's something different here, as he expresses his feelings for Kayleen and tells her about the night that he saw her father to find out where she was living. He's angry and hurt, but wants nothing more than to protect her, something he tries to do throughout, even when he doesn't have it all together.
In Scene 4 – "Twenty-Eight: Tuesday," Komlen-Amadei brought tears to my eyes as she talks to Doug, who's in a coma. With many more wounds than at first sight, she's heart wrenching to watch as a woman who is slowly coming apart at the seams.
Friendship goes a long way, not only in the show, but also by those who put it together.
The entire show is produced, directed, acted and designed by Wayne State students past and present. Director Jordan Whalen, a 2011 graduate of Wayne State's M.F.A. acting program at the Hilberry Theatre, enlisted fellow classmate Prouty and Bonstelle alumna Komlen-Amadei to act, and added current students Devon Davey, Sara Hymes and Brian Scruggs as his artistic team. Everything from the costumes to the lights add something distinct to the age that Prouty and Komlen-Amadei are playing in any given scene, making it believable as we slowly watch it all unfold.
"Gruesome Playground Injuries" is much darker than I thought it would be, even with its moments of humor, but that's OK; it exposes the scars and wounds that make these characters, for both the good and the bad, and that's refreshing in a world where any sort of imperfection is often hidden.
SHOW DETAILS: "Gruesome Playground Injuries" continues at The Elizabeth Theater at the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit, Sunday and Thursday through Aug. 12. Running time: 90 minutes; no intermission. Tickets: $12. For information: e-mail email@example.com
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