Encore Michigan

I And You: Getting connected – it’s easier than you think

Review May 02, 2015 Encore Staff

by John Quinn

Article: 9660; Posted: May 2, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

A couple of high school students exploring the mysteries of love, life and death as envisioned by poet Walt Whitman create the plot for Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You,” an odd yet compelling one act play, and the second production of the brand new Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor. In keeping with what will be Nova’s tradition, “I and You” is a fairly new play and this is its Michigan premiere.

People don’t fit easily into classifications, and high school students are no exception. Caroline (Katie Terpstra) is “in school” but not “in class,” due to medical problems. She is shocked by a visit from Anthony (Matthew Webb), a classmate who has their homework. That project is a presentation of the philosophical reflections by humanist poet Walt Whitman in his “Leaves of Grass.” Caroline is not about to give up her solitude and ennui for something as boring as homework. But the project is due the next day and an all-nighter looms. Their initial interplay is distinctly rocky.

Whitman, though, is providing a path through the life well-lived, and two intelligent teens understand his vision. A mutual bond of understanding and respect–dare we say love?–commences. Solid connections can help people through the most disturbing times, and the unexpected connections revealed in “I and You” make for an entertaining example.

This may be taken as damning with faint praise, but Guderson appears to have deliberately written a claustrophobic play. Director David Wolber honors the playwright’s intent, which benefits the overall impact and texture of the play. Terpstra clearly plays the discomfort and, frankly, terror of a stranger invading her personal space. In a similar vein, the Webb’s more outgoing character is very aware of Caroline’s limitations and moves gently to put her at ease.

Theatre Nova performs in the newly renovated space at The Yellow Barn. It’s a very intimate venue with audience sitting three quarter around the stage in steeply raked tiers. Because those of us who sat in the very back found that the blocking becomes very three-dimensional and brings additional interest and meaning without any extra business.

“I and You” is just a little different from what one expects in modern drama, but fits Theatre Nova’s mission well. So far, so good, guys; keep ’em coming.

90 minutes. No intermission.

I and You
Theatre Nova
Yellow Barn, 416 W. Huron, Ann Arbor
May 1-17, 2015; Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
Price: pay-what-you-can, suggested donation $20

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