Preface: I haven’t seen a lot of stage plays, but I’ve read a few of them and been trained (at the K-12 level) in their analysis.
tl;dr: it was really good, you should go see it. // throws token into fund for comma splices
The stage has lots of boxes, looks like a perpetual attic; there are only two actors, for characters Dougie and Kayleen. I think Dougie calls Kayleen ‘Laney’ sometimes. (I checked NYT for the spelling of Kayleen. This seems like the sort of name on the spelling of which that the Car Talk guys would love to speculate. “Is that with an ‘ene'” asks Click — “Or ‘een’?” interjects Clack.)
There really are lots of gruesome playground injuries. Physical injuries — sliced open face, black eye, missing eye — bring the characters together in a series of scenes, each marked by the crepuscular characters’ hauling a marked cardboard box to the front of the stage. Between scenes, the characters change entirely on stage: mud and make up are applied, the actors are bare to bra and boxers; it’s all very neat.
“Did it hurt?” “You’re so stupid!” are Kayleen’s key phrases. Her emotionally abusive father has crippled her ability to be emotionally vulnerable, and instead, she hurts herself physically, by cutting — just skin at first — and later, attempting to cut out her stomach. She needs Dougie, and Dougie needs her.
It’s clear that the play explores the connection between emotional and physical pain, and emotional and physical accessibility. Laney seems to be able to be truly honest in her monologue to the comatose Dougie, having done something stupid on the roof before his wedding, which would never happen; in the end, she overcomes something-or-other and manages to open, emotionally, to Doug, but only after he’s somehow become a paraplegic.
As a young man, he can’t admit this, but after the idiocy of youth, every injury he inflicts on himself is a vain effort to reach to Laney. He loves her. He can’t bear to see her in pain, but the optimal (or only) outlet seems to be high-risk activities that diminish his ability to interact with the physical world. First his sight, then his legs. (weak quotation:) “Climbing up a telephone is easy. Getting down — in the rain — you were unlisted … — is harder.” (The former hockey player, struck by lightning? having fallen?, becomes a paraplegic.)
It’s interesting that the actors bare much of their bodies in this play that dramatizes the risks of not exposing our emotions.
At first I really didn’t like the play because the characters could do two things that I can’t:
and I thought it was about a sort of middle america that I would never be able to relate to. No. anyone can relate to the risks of emotional reticence.