Regional Reviews: St. Louis
I and You
Also see Richard's review of A Mourning Hollow
And there's something wonderfully combative about Danielle Carlacci as that girl, at wit's end over just about everything. Like "the woman" in Ger Thijs' drama presented in St. Louis last month (De Kus/The Kiss at Upstream Theatre), we have another woman heremuch youngergrappling with mortality and ultimately summoning up the courage to face facts. Here, Caroline begins the play in a fury at being disturbed in her solitude by fellow student Anthony (Reynaldo Piniella). And that fury continues for the better part of an hour, if memory serves.
But the big news in I And You is the very dramatic ending, though obviously I can't tell you anything about that. Except that maybe it's too powerful, and nearly squashes everything that's come before, in our minds. Thank goodness the performances are so good that we can keep the whole preceding 90-ish minutes alive in our memory, in spite of a hugely explosive finish.
But that ending does sweep you away, and also explains a few odd little moments earlier in the story, once you think about it. Up till then, it's a frequently confrontational piece, often funny, and punctuated by two increasingly disturbing moments when Caroline succumbs to painful collapses. And yet it's also marked by lovely moments when the two students connect in surprising ways. As we get closer and closer to the characters, Caroline's life-or-death struggle gains a lot more power.
Lauren Gunderson wrote the 95-minute play, which debuted in 2013. And it's already enjoyed numerous productions in just the last two years. Never having had teenagers myself, though, I was a little unprepared for all the shouting and loud music that starts things off with a sustained "bang." But it may seem perfectly normal for you. Jane Page directs, with great affinity for struggling teens and unbearable limitations.
The occasional peaceful moments here are delightful and endearing, as when Anthony discusses his love of jazz and Coltrane, and later there's a beautiful, late-night romantic scene "under the stars." Their discussion of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" (as part of their school project) is thought-provoking, and serves as a very nice backdrop for Caroline's war with fatal illness, and the despair of being taken out of school, and being trapped in a house with a worried mom.
In the midst of all that, you could also amuse yourself by noting that this Anthony and Caroline bear a distinct resemblance to President Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clintonthis Anthony is tall and darker-skinned and very charming; and this Caroline is bookish and precise and provoked to great certainty in dealing with other peoples' behaviors (as we might imagine of Mrs. Clinton).
Here we know what Caroline can do for Anthony, in terms of the school project. But we watch as he spends 95% of the play trying to convince her he's worth the effort. Indeed, all of Caroline's torment finally does pay off in the dizzying finale, although those last two minutes overpower everything we've gone through, making us just a bit resentful of a sudden, gigantic twist.
And yet, the intensity and charm of the performances, and the philosophical arguments put forth by playwright Gunderson, give us a play that transcends its own sledge hammer of an ending.
Through November 15, 2015, at the Studio Theatre of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, on the campus of Webster University, 130 North Edgar Rd. For more information visit www.repstl.org.