This past Sunday, November 18th, I had the pleasure of attending “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” the first production of nolaNOW Theatre Company. I caught the final show of a three-show run of the play, so I knew to expect that it would be polished and well executed. However, because this was the first production by this months old theatre company, I didn’t expect to be blown away.
Utterly blown away.
So many elements of what makes live theatre worth going to in the first place came together beautifully in this production. The acting, set design, the efficiency and brutality of the play itself, all worked to create a moving and immersive experience. I struggled to even take notes in order to write this review. That’s how effective the folks at nolaNOW were at pulling the audience into this play. I was at the edge of my seat the entire time.
Now that I’ve expressed my general sense of awe, it’s time for some specifics.
Essentially, this was a character study of two people and their relationship. We get to peer into the lives of the two characters, D and Kayleen, as they grow from 8 years old to 38 years old. The framework of the play centers around times during which one or both characters were injured. Actresses Madeline Kolker and Alyson Goodman elicit a great deal of laughter at moments, and sorrow and genuine tears at others. The acting was truly brilliant. Madeline played a curious 8-year-old so well that for a moment, I truly did believe that she was 8 years old. Alyson portrayed an awkward dancing 13-year-old so well that I had a flashback of my days at a middle school dance. Touching on topics of self-harm, sexual violence, love, friendship, and LGBTQ+ issues, Madeline and Alyson took the audience on a journey through a wide range of emotions. Each scene, each moment, was executed perfectly and the result was palpable emotional responses from the audience. Laughter could be heard often, as could crying at moments of despair in the story. Both actresses are destined for great things, and I was honored to be able to see them at this point in their respective careers.
The Set Design and Costumes:
Costume designer, Coco Guillot, and stage manager, Liz Haley nailed it. There is no other way to put it. Gruesome Playground Injuries was unique in that all the costume changes happened to the side of the stage, but to music and in front of the audience. We saw the actresses transform not only in their roles but also literally on the sides of the stage. Helping each other with their makeup quickly between scenes, Madeline and Alyson presented a play within a play. Each song played between scenes brought the audience from one year to another. The music wonderfully captured the shift in mood and age between scenes (and thereby injuries). Each costume (containing a wide array of injuries at varying ages) was effective and purposeful. There was no space wasted in this small setup, nor was a single prop not used to its fullest.
nolaNOW Theatre Company came out of the gate of the gate full speed and on fire.
I cannot wait to see what they do next!
RATING: 5 / 5
Nolan Storey has lived in New Orleans for 10 years. He fell in love with this city as he received his bachelors in English from Loyola University New Orleans in 2012. Since then, he has gone on to publish three books, including two books of poetry. Feel free to check out some of his other articles, poetry, and short fiction pieces here.