Genre: Comedic drama
Location: Lab Theatre in Booker T. Washington
This review contains spoilers. Interested in learning about the play without them? See our preview of "I and You" here for a spoiler-free read.
In an era of John Green and popular teenage fiction novels, high school dramas and the tropes of adolescence have become widely loved for their relatability and fantastical satisfaction. The student-directed play "I and You" obviously understands this. By combining the beauty of Walt Whitman monologues and human tragedy, it has utilized adolescence to express many complicated sentiments of human nature.
The play starts with Caroline, the main character, in her bed when Anthony enters her room, loudly exclaiming his presence with a Whitman verse, eventually explaining that he needs help finishing his English assignment. From a heated argument about deceit to insulting each other, this starts the play’s action of intense repartee of discussing poetry, relationships, existential motivations and the value of the individual.
The play includes two drastically different characters, one, Caroline, being a technology-obsessed female with quirky, melodramatic tendencies homebound with an acute liver disease. The other, Anthony, is an easygoing athletic basketball player with a sense of humor and love for jazz. The two struggle for each other’s acceptance. As the play progresses, they begin to open up and understand each other on a deeply connected level.
The entire play takes place during one night in Caroline’s bedroom, among her malfunctioning smoke detector and her many distinctively artistic belongings. These two continue with conversations broaching death, the will to live, desires, each others’ futures, self-contempt and divorce. At the same time, they teach each other lessons about relationships, inner acceptance and societal issues. For most of the play, the audience is under the impression that these interactions are linearly passing in her room.
Just as the story established the deep connections they have built, all the clues of their semi-linear time and unexplained plot points are revealed in Anthony’s closing lines. The entire experience is explained to be a figment of Caroline’s anesthetized subconscious connecting with Anthony’s spiritual presence, as he is her organ donor and the deceased basketball player from the story he told earlier that day.
Throughout the play, the audience develops as much of a connection to the characters as they do each other. The script, full of thought provoking and deeply meaningful lines melded with the intricately beautiful poetry of Walt Whitman, creates a story that goes beyond the simple message of romance.
With the free form nature of the black box theater, the story was brought to the audience in a unique way. Instead of seeing the two dimensions of a normal play, the audience was present in the room alongside the characters, making the bedroom feel real. Anthony entered among the chairs of the audience, and Caroline’s bed or belongings were essentially a part of the audience’s experience.
What may have seemed like a typical, overdone story of high school drama actually turns out to be rather meaningful thought on life, human connection and the inevitability of death.
Although the play certainly upholds previously done story points of the romance of a sick girl or the common story arch of opposites attracting, ”I and You” is elevated from these common plot devices both with the script being cemented in genuine emotion and the unexpected ending. With everyone at some point having experienced the social estrangement and angst of teenagehood, the bestowed depth of these plot devices made for a memorable and emotional story.