The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Suzanne Delle and Casey Preston star in the Artists Collective Theatre’s season premiere, Gruesome Playground Injuries. Emily Maloney photo.

See Gruesome Playground Injuries

Where: Hunt Building, 6 Main St., Nashua
When: Friday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. (opening night reception afterward); Saturday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets: $18

Painful relationships
ACT opens season with Gruesome Playground Injuries

By Kelly Sennott

Make-up artist Allison Martell is no stranger to quick, gorey makeup — a Spooky World veteran, she used to slab fake blood, bruises, gashes and deformities on actors every weekend when she worked there in 2010.
But she’s never encountered a challenge quite like this.
She’ll be transforming characters over and over again in the Artists Collective Theatre’s (ACT) series premiere, Gruesome Playground Injuries, this weekend at the Nashua Hunt Building. The play by Rajiv Joseph is about the 30-year relationship between the show’s only two characters, Kayleen (played by Suzanne Delle) and Doug (played by Casey Preston), who constantly find one another in varying degrees of physical health. The play spans just over an hour, and it’s told in eight scenes skipping every five years.
Their make-up will consist of battered and bruised injuries, but unlike at Spooky World, Martell will have to put on and take off makeup eight different times. 
“There are a lot of steps to putting makeup on, but taking it off is pretty easy,” Martell said at a Wednesday rehearsal last week. She was in the midst of painting a bloody gash on the side of actor Casey Preston’s head, which his character accrues when he rides his bicycle off the roof of a building. 
Audiences will see this injury in the first scene, when the characters are 8 years old. The play is a love story of sorts that starts when the two meet in the school nurse’s office. They recognize a kinship in one another — they see they’re both twisted little souls, masochists who are constantly unwell. His injuries are due to accidents, outward physical impairments, and hers are internal — in most scenes, she suffers severe stomach issues. They flit in and out of each other’s lives, and audiences stop in at ages 13, 18, 23, 28, 33 and 38, though not chronologically.
This play marks the start of ACT’s second season. A derivation of Yellow Taxi Productions, whose final production at the Hunt was in 2009, this company has a bit of a different feel. It’s a collective, so instead of one leader, there are many, and part of this company’s mission is to create a dialogue. With every production, there’s a cast member meet-and-greet afterward. After opening night, there will be a reception organized by company member Anna Addis. 
“There are so many reasons why you pick a season,” Delle said. “This is a play that’s been on my radar for a while — I had actually talked to Casey about doing it a couple of years ago. … But this, along with Three Days of Rain [the April show] and Clybourne Park [the February show], rose to the top because people in ACT were passionate about them, and because they each deal with the issue of time and how time changes you.”
Part of the draw, too, was the technical challenge, Delle said. Makeup and costume changes will need to be done fast and efficiently, something made more difficult because of the Hunt theater’s design — there are no curtains, no stage, and the actors are less than three feet away from the audience. ACT co-founder and play actress/director Suzanne Delle jokes the space is perfect for audience members “who like your actors sweating on you and spitting on you” — they’re that close.
Set and sound designer Christopher Dubois will help with transitions, and so will Preston.
“We’re lucky enough to have Casey on board not only as an actor, but also a videographer and filmmaker. He’ll make titles that will project for every scene so that it’s very clear for the audience what year we’re in and what’s happening,” Delle said.
She thinks it’s an honest play.
“I’m drawn to shows that are very character-driven,” Delle said. “What makes this show unique is that you get to see the same characters for years. … I like theater that feels honest, and their relationship feels honest. They have a shared history that brings them together over and over again.” 


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