Jeff Ward and Sara Rae Foster in “Gruesome Playground Injuries” (Ed Krieger)

Review: “Gruesome Playground Injuries” Is Just Enough Dark, Just Enough Funny

Physical and emotional pain are impossible to compare. Each comes with its unique set of circumstances, but they both leave scars. 

In “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” directed by John Hindman and starring Sara Rae Foster (Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”) and Jeff Ward (Lifetime’s Manson’s Lost Girls), two childhood friends so different they fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Kayleen (Foster) and Doug (Ward) face 30 years of growing pains – from the elementary school playground to their respective middle ages – and never quite grow up. 

But “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is far from a tale of anguish, as the sharp dialogue, plentiful comedic exchanges and chemistry between Foster and Ward balance out this dark rom-com, with plenty of emotional sharp turns along the bumpy road of each character. Based on the acclaimed book by Rajiv Joseph of the same name, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” triumphantly opened Friday, May 20 at the Hudson Theatre. 

Kayleen and Doug accidentally shared their first (practice) kiss when they were 8, and by the end of the play it leaves the hopeless romantics among the audience wondering if it was that first kiss that tied their lives together forever. Non-chronologically, the play jumps to all the life-changing moments they shared, despite never having been in a romantic relationship and sometimes going years without knowing of each others’ whereabouts. But Kayleen, with her deeply-rooted emotional scars that follow her from childhood to adulthood, and Doug, who suffers Wiley Coyote-esque injuries at every turn (each funnier and more outlandish than the last) can’t stop gravitating toward each other. If one is in dire need of a shoulder to lean on, the other somehow finds their way to be there. 

It’s fitting that the same two actors play the roles of Kayleen and Doug from age 8 to 38 because they never quite change: Their wounds, friendship and romance remain the same. 

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is at the Hudson Backstage Theatre (6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles) through June 26, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. For tickets ($25) and information, call (323) 960-7773 or visit

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