Theatre Review: “I and You”
By Kevin M. O’Toole
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company continues its summer season in its theatrical space at Walker Farm with “I and You,” playwright Lauren Gunderson’s 2014 take on two very different high school students who struggle to find a common vocabulary as they plow through a classroom assignment. Analyzing the use of pronouns in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” leads to a detente of sorts with the possibility of deeper understanding. Last Saturday’s opening night performance of what at first glance seemed a realistic portrait of teenage angst packed quite a wallop.
The play is set in the bedroom of Caroline (Jordan Tyson), who, housebound with a serious illness, can no longer attend classes at her school. She has created her own world, because aside from the internet and texts with her mother, there is nobody else. Enter Anthony (Glenn Stott), in button-down shirt and tie: unannounced. Seeing that Caroline is freaking out, Anthony quickly explains that he and Caroline have been assigned as partners on a classroom project that is due, well, tomorrow. Bearing gifts of waffle fries, which are accepted, and Pop Tarts, which are not, Anthony presses his case and reads passages from Whitman’s epic poem.
The cloistered setting forces the unlikely pair to attempt to get to know one another. They take a break and exchange musical preferences. (He likes Coltrane – she favors rockabilly ala Jerry Lee Lewis). They exchange aspirations. (He is vague – she confesses a desire to explore the world and photograph it). Caroline then learns that earlier that very day, Anthony witnessed the sudden death of a teammate on a basketball court. As Anthony shrugs it off, Caroline, who has been dealt a very bad hand, awkwardly tries to offer some solace to this other person who, in a very short span of time, has come to mean more and more to her.
Glenn Stott was winning as the frustrated Anthony, who repeatedly offered that he just wanted to complete the classroom presentation, but informed his recitations of the poetry with a passion that belied Anthony’s supposed indifference. Jordan Tyson’s interpretation of the complicated and difficult Caroline was balanced and like playwright Lauren Gunderson’s dialogue: genuine.
Director Johanna Gruenhut allowed the actors to flow from topic to topic naturally, without letting the pace lag. Scenic Designer Tim Mackabee’s transformation of the theatrical space at Walker Farm into a diorama of Caroline’s cluttered bedroom with inset bookshelves, only feet away from the audience, greatly aided the storytelling. Costume Designer Asta Bennie Hostetter put Caroline in a polka dot pullover jersey that let her hide and later reveal blotches on her arms to Anthony.
The show’s title derives from Whitman’s use of the words “I” and “you” to mean different things in different contexts: sometimes the reader, sometimes the author, and sometimes all of us now and in the future. Through a nineteenth century poet and two disparate young people, this remarkable play reminds that we are all fellow passengers on this bus.
Performances of “I and You” continue through July 21st at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, just a stone’s throw north on Route 100 from Weston Village. For ticket information, call the WPTC box office at (802) 824-5288 or visit its website at www.westonplayhouse.org.