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Actor from 'Lincoln' brings play to Hamburg

Actor and director Stephen McKinley Henderson instructs Taylor Doherty (left) and Kathleen Golde (right) during practice of “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which opens Friday night.
The Buffalo Laboratory Theatre is starting 2013 off with a production of “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” a play written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Tony nominated actor and director Stephen McKinley Henderson.

The play, called “Irresistibly odd and exciting” by the New York Daily News, explores the lives of two friends, Kayleen and Doug, over a 30-year period, starting when the characters are 8-years-old and ending when they are 38. Different time periods in the characters lives take center stage, and the play jumps around to various ages when tragedy and circumstance bring the two childhood friends together at strange times throughout their lives. The play addresses “deep, deep, deep friendship love,” said Kathleen Golde, associate art director for the Buffalo Laboratory Theatre and the actress playing Kayleen in the play.

“All of us have that friend that we’ve known so long that no explanation is necessary,” she said. “We can just totally and completely be ourselves with abandon with each other. So it’s that kind of friendship.”

Contrary to the title, “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is not a “horror movie,” Golde said. It goes much deeper than what the title suggests.

“It’s a play about life wounds and healing,” she said.

Taylor Doherty, an actor and playwright who is playing Doug, has a different take on things, illustrating the differences in Doug and Kayleen as characters in the play. To Doherty, the play explores the destructive nature friendships can sometimes take.

“You have this push-pull, give and take damaging friendship,” he said. “To me, it’s about this self-destructive relationship where, by the end, (Doug) is in a very bad place physically from the things he’s done, but there’s still hope that they’re going to find their way out of this and into a better place.”

The play is set up to jump around like memories, Doherty said.

“Memories never hit you in the correct order, you just get washed with memories,” he said. “It’s just back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and the audience is just kind of washed along in this sort of torrent of memories.”

Stephen McKinley Henderson found the play and brought it to the Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, presenting an opportunity for Golde, Henderson and Doherty, longtime friends, to collaborate. It’s also a boon for the theater, as Henderson’s services as a director are in high demand.

Henderson, who recently played a role in the Oscar nominated “Lincoln” alongside Daniel Day Lewis, provides a depth of experience and knowledge to the play, Doherty said.

“He is the kind of guy that when he gives us regular notes after a scene or something, everything is just profound, like a nugget of wisdom from the heavens,” he said. “Everything is just something amazingly profound. It’s been brilliant. I feel like it’s been a master class in acting, just being able to work with him.”

The play offers the opportunity for people living in the Southtowns to go to a professional theater company without having to drive for half an hour and pay for parking in downtown Buffalo, Golde said.

“We are the only professional theater in the Southtowns,” she said. “Our theatre company has folks who have traveled from Japan to Alaska.”

The play opens Friday night, Jan. 25, and runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m., with a special matinee performance on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. The play is being held at the Swan Auditorium, which is on the Hilbert College campus, located at 5200 South Park Ave.

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