It’s been nearly two years since Pippa Johnstone and Kenton Klassen first worked together in Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries. But while the physical and mental damage their two characters inflict on themselves, and each other, hasn’t healed, time has definitely helped the actors find new depth.
“Even after the first reading Chelsea [director Chelsea Haberlin] and some of the designers said it had taken on a deeper quality,” says Klassen who plays Doug in the upcoming Pacific Theatre remount. “And as Pippa said: these characters have been steeping for a year and a half.”
Helping Klassen to reach deeper into his characterization of one-half of this odd duo, comes from a better understanding of the co-dependency dynamic that permeates through the show.
“Co-dependency has all these weird contradictions and it’s not rational, but I’ve come to understand that need for the other person, even though it is unhealthy,” he says.
Gruesome Playground Injuries is the story of Doug and Kayleen; he an accident-prone daredevil and she a masochist. First meeting in in the nurse’s room of their elementary school at age eight, in Joseph’s non-linear telling, the two re-appear in each other’s lives at different ages when one or both have suffered some sort of physical (or mental) calamity.
Ironically perhaps, the connection the two characters have for each other in the play is very similar to the connection Klassen has for Doug.
“I really connected with this character, always have,” says Klassen. “I’ve thought about him a lot since we did it last time. This is probably my favourite play, and I’m really happy to have the chance to do it again.”
Beyond a deeper understanding of his character, Klassen says there have been no significant changes from the original production, although he does admit that the challenge of playing different ages has been reversed.
“It is still a challenge to play an eight year-old, but playing the older ones are more of a challenge now,” he says. “We’ve come a long way with the younger ages and now with the older ones I understand the gravity of what they are going through. I’m trying to find that in my own body, and figuring out what it would be like at 38, which is ten years from now for me.”
Finding out that there was a possibility of this remount on opening night during the show’s original run in 2014, Klassen says there is something special in being reunited with his acting partner and director.
“The play is about friends coming back together again and it is ironic that is what is happening now,” he says.
Gruesome Playground Injuries plays Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Ave, Vancouver) April 1-16. Visit https://pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.