I and Him watching I and You
Walking into I and You at the 59E59 theatre, I knew very little. Just the way I like to arrive at a play, and I rarely have that opportunity. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard that the play had a surprise, some sort of twist, but once this quick 80 minute play got started, I was just drawn in and engrossed in the two character interaction. This new play by Laurie Gunderson is such a well written piece of teenage angst and drama that the audience is curious almost immediately. So many questions start piling up in our minds about who these two kids are, and what is exactly is going on. The actions and reactions felt so true but also a bit strange. There was something that felt a bit off, and for good reason, but the way these two spoke to each other, it was very spot on, in terms of words and behaviors. The dialogue felt to me very ‘teenager 2016’.
As the teenage shut-in, Caroline, too sick (mentally? physically? we aren’t sure at the beginning) to go to school, Kayla Ferguson is intricately and spontaneously angry, frustrated, and suspicious of her high school classmate guest, Anthony. Especially from his startling entrance, reciting the line, “I and this mystery, here we stand.” She is reactive, not surprisingly, and delivers a high energy and complicated portrayal of this lonely and rebellious girl, who wishes for a normal high school life but is also wary of it as well. Aren’t we all.
Reggie D. White plays the unwanted guest and classmate who explains to her that he has ‘volunteered’ to partner with her on a presentation about Walt Whitman’s poem, “Leaves of Grass” and the use of the pronouns ‘I and You’ throughout. He does a fine job interacting with Caroline playing a verbal game of teenage back and forth, trying to calm her, gain her trust, and establish some sort of camaraderie so this poem and their class project can be discussed. But I’m not sure I believed he was the character he was being described as. His portrayal seemed a bit underwhelming and not very ‘senator’ like, a noun used as a jab by Caroline. Somehow his actions and responses felt like they needed to be fleshed out more, and deepened with some weight, less pacing around, and more shades and levels of emotional heaviness. That might be my main criticism of the whole interactive play, that more layers and deeper intentions need to be explored to bring this piece to the powerful end it is striving for.
In regards to the ending, the play has the power to really make an impact on us in its deeper meaning and in its surprise. Much becomes more clear and understandable because of how this play ends, many questions are answered that are nagging at us throughout, but on deeper reflection, some of the misguided intentions and flighty emotionality only cause us to question more, when some tighter and more focused direction from Sean Daniels could have helped. To say anything else about the ending would be criminal. So I will leave it at that. I wish it felt a bit heavier at times, but I and You is still quite a ride, so go and enjoy.