In his play Gruesome Playground Injuries, writer Rajiv Joseph explores the relationship between two friends through the lens of a lifetime of injuries, both accidental and self-inflicted. Chicago’s Rasaka Theatre Company brings this story to life at the Chopin Theatre now through August 5th.
The play follows evolution of a friendship between Kayleen and Doug over 30 years. It begins in their Catholic school nurse’s office, with 8 year old Kayleen meeting Doug after he drives his bike of their school’s roof. As the play continues, Joseph jumps to different instances in their lives when injury or illness brings his characters together. Tim Martin, who plays the accident prone Doug says the main challenge they faced “was to take these dark themes and accentuate the camaraderie, love, and joy that they bring out in our relationship….We had to bring out the humor and playfulness of the text.” The story is a darkly humorous, but fresh look at how people can injure each other emotionally through their relationships.
I had the fortune to chat with Mouzam Makkar, who plays Joseph’s female lead Kayleen. She describes the play as a uniquely intimate theatre experience. The costume and set change take place with the actors on stage and in character, so nothing is hidden from the audience. She calls the role a rare chance to really “inhabit the character” throughout the duration of the play.
Makkar’s road to the stage was not direct. After embracing acting during high school, she majored in finance during college. After graduation, she worked for 6 years in investment banking and private equity. During what she describes as two soul-searching trips to Africa and Costa Rica, Makkar decided to re-embrace her love of acting and begin auditioning for roles. By 2009, she was booking enough acting gigs to leave the finance industry and become an actor full-time. She describes seeing a play as a chance for the audience to do some self-exploration through the characters’ stories, and that shows in her performance.
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