“Gruesome Playground Injuries”

Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Amanda Zarr

Amanda Zarr and Richard Nguyen Sloniker

Reckless daredevil meets emotionally wounded depressive in Rajiv Joseph’s heart wrenching play impeccably offered by Azeotrope, and here for only one weekend more. If I were asked to describe it in one word, that would be WOW!

As directed by Desdemona Chiang, there not one unnecessary gesture, not one superfluous element here. We see incidents in the lives of two damaged people over the course of 30 years, beginning when they are eight year old boy and girl, but not presented in chronological order. We watch their contradictory responses to one another: attraction/repulsion, need/nurture. Their relationship is intimate though distanced. That sounds contradictory, and so it might be if Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Amanda Zarr weren’t consummate actors capable of the most nuanced performances.

Under a less gifted team this could be melodramatic. The heartaches and wounds, and there are oh so many wounds, could become cloying but they never do. The characters are beautiful misfits, drawn to each other yet incapable of providing what the other needs. One has to feel sorrow and tenderness for them. Each is so appealing. You yearn for their happiness. It’s not to be.

You know from the moment you enter that this theatre company knows what it’s doing. Deanna Zibello’s deceptively simple green and white set is eerily modern, minimal, and a forecast of what’s to come. There are hospital curtains hanging from metal rods above the stage. The cast simply alters their position to separate each scene. Complementing this set are sound and lighting systems that reinforce mood and action.

Azeotrope is a relatively new company, begun three years ago. This is its third production. The first two won raves. If I were you, I’d catch this one and keep my eyes open for the company’s next project.

Through Aug. 11, The Little Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E, Seattle
(http://azo-gpi.brownpapertickets.com

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