Edgy, dark, funny and more than a little unsettling, Lucky Penny's deliriously twisted production of Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries is not the kind of thing most theatergoers expect when they sit down for an onstage love story.
Propelled by the bold notion that psychologically unhealthy people sometimes fall in love, too, this demented contemporary comedy—directed with a sense of wit and compassion by Barry Martin—will not be everyone's cup of tea; but those eager for strong, new theatrical voices and an un-fuzzy outlook on love will find that this one delivers, and then some.
The two-actor show features married performers Ben Stowe (excellent) and Katie Kelley (giving one of her strongest-ever performances) as screwed up, suffering-addicted friends who meet as eight-year-olds in the school nurse's office (she has a chronic stomachache; he just rode his bike off the roof and tore open his face). Skipping back and forth in time, we meet them at various points in their lives, each scene anchored by an injury, each scene's interval—during which we watch them change costumes and apply vivid wound make-up—underscored by a clever playlist about how much love and life hurt, and how we (sometimes) survive it with our bodies and hearts more or less (but not always) intact.
'Gruesome Playground Injuries' runs Friday–Sunday through Oct. 25 at Lucky Penny Community Arts Center. 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. Fri–Sat, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm matinee. $21-$31. 707.266.6305 —David Templeton