How do you begin to come to terms with death? Do you live with it, or ignore it until it can’t be ignored anymore?
In a desperate attempt to complete an English assignment due the next day, Anthony shows up in Caroline’s room with a worn copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school for months, but eventually decides to help.
I and You is a living-room play, meaning that it takes place entirely in one set with no set changes. Though in this case, it is really a bedroom play. There two are scene changes, which involve a cut to black with Billie Eilish music videos. The set itself is very detailed, and the actors take great advantage of the whole space. They run across the room, jump on furniture, and move pieces around to make the set feel like a lived-in space. I and You effectively avoids the pitfall sometimes faced by living-room plays when they don’t fully utilize their space or the actors stick to centre stage the entire runtime.
I also want to give a shout-out to the lighting designer, Paul Hilton, as a lot is done with the lighting to imply the passage of time through the afternoon, evening, and night. I won’t spoil anything, but at the ending of the play, there’s a great use of a constellation turtle, a screensaver, and random flashes of light scattered throughout the scene. I was really impressed with how impactful the lighting was.
I would best describe the dialogue of the play as ‘YA’-esque. But given that the two characters are discussing poetry, the meaning of art, how art makes them feel, and their interpretations of Whitman’s work, the overly poetic lines don’t feel too out of place. Mixed with some lines that reflect the teenagers’ goofiness and immaturity, it balances out the more poetic language, and makes Anthony and Caroline feel like awkward and pretentious teenagers struggling to understand what Whitman’s writing is really about. There were a couple times I was reminded of John Green’s writing, especially with Caroline’s chronic illness. I don’t think the comparison is exactly one-to-one, but the similarity shouldn’t be ignored.
I mentioned earlier the actors’ use of the stage, and UVic’s Justin Lee (Anthony) and Jesse Deutscher (Caroline) are great physical actors. They both nail the quiet, awkward moments in their introduction and the romantic scenes, as well as the big and loud and passionate moments that come with being a teenager. They both balance the sarcastic (and annoying) parts of their characters, while building up to the more sincere parts as the play continues. Caroline puts up a front early in the play and it takes a while for her to open up to Anthony. I think her attitude is justified for the character, and her anger over her situation isn’t something that easily goes away once she gets a friend.
Overall, it’s a sweet little story about coming to terms to death from the perspective of two teenagers. When the story and the characters get more serious and start discussing their opinions on death, and living with it, it opens up a very interesting conversation, and a sincere romance. If that’s your type of story, check it out.
I and You runs at Langham Court Theatre until March 14. Tickets for students are $10.