If the purpose of theatre is to make us think, feel, and connect not only to others but to something greater than ourselves, then I and You gets an A+ on all levels.
On the surface, I and You is about two teenagers, Caroline and Anthony, classmates who don’t know each other, but have been assigned to work on a project together: the use of the pronouns, I and You, in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Caroline didn’t “get the email” from the teacher about the group project because, “Who even uses email anymore?” Anthony shows up in Caroline’s bedroom, needing her input (he’s almost done but it is a “group project” and, of course, he thought he had more time – now it’s due tomorrow.) Caroline is a shut-in due to a liver condition, and hasn’t been to school in long time. She “lives” her life thru electronic devices. Annoyed that her mother let Anthony in, she is, however, moved/disgusted by his pathetic attempt at a poster, and since she cannot abide “irresponsible crafting” she agrees to help him with this last minute project.
I’ve only been to 3 or 4 plays at the relatively new Walker Farm at Weston Playhouse, so when I saw I and You, I was surprised to see that the set had a different orientation than the other plays I’d attended. The action takes place in one room, Caroline’s bedroom. Unlike other plays I’ve seen there, where the set can be seen from three sides, we only see one view of Caroline’s room. Orienting the stage this way works really well for this play. It is “walled off” – the perfect metaphor for her life up until this point. The entire back of the set is filled with built-in shelves overflowing with books, pictures, craft supplies, makeup, stuffed animals, etc. The bed is made but slightly messy. There are just enough clothes and shoes scattered about to indicate that Caroline is neither a slob nor compulsively neat. If a teenage girl had to live in one room, this would be it.
Glenn Stoot, who plays Anthony, and Jordan Tyson, who plays Caroline, are probably not much older than the characters they play and are totally believable. Caroline, who has faced death her entire life, has a pretty high wall built up. Anthony, who is a jock and a scholar and generally a nice kid, is totally charming. In some ways, they are opposites: Caroline is often taking pictures of the tiniest things, perhaps because her physical world has been so limited due to her illness. Anthony, on the other hand, tends to be drawn to the “big picture” aspects of life, earnestly and passionately quoting Whitman and urging Caroline to explore the interconnectedness of the world. They are alternately confident and embarrassed, silly and serious, open and awkward, just like most teenagers. As the day progresses and they discuss not only Whitman but also artistic ability (and the lack thereof), family, jazz and rockabilly, basketball, girlfriends, Pop tarts, their hopes and fears for the future, “the walls” come down and you fall in love with these two characters.
“Not I, not anyone can travel that road for you, you must travel for yourself.”
– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
There is a road we all must travel, but we don’t have to travel it alone. I and You is the kind of work that not only reminds us that we don’t have to travel that road by ourselves, but makes us want to reach out and make sure those we love are along for the ride. The real challenge with this play, is that it doesn’t lend itself to be reviewed. It needs to be seen, by family and friends, thought about, and discussed. This play is ultimately about life, our connections to each other, and our connections to the world.
“Great is life… and real… and magical” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
YOU need to go see this play. I will be seeing it again.
Maybe we can get a chance to talk about it afterwards.
I AND YOU
JULY 4, 2019 – JULY 21, 2019
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Johanna Gruenhut
Photo Credit: Alex Perry
Tuesday – Saturday Evenings at 7:30 pm
Wednesday & Saturday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Sunday Matinees at 3:00 pm
Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm
705 Main Street, Weston, VT 05161
Tickets: $45-60. Does not include sales tax and fees.
Purchase online or call the box office at: 802-824-5288.
“If you want me again look for me under your boot soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good help to you nevertheless
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you?”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass