Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Caroline (Claire Inie-Richards) is a cynical high school senior who happens to be stuck at home due to chronic illness. One afternoon Anthony (Ricardy Charles Fabre) shows up unannounced to work on a school project: discuss the use of the pronouns "I" and "You" in Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Suspecting some type of pity project, Caroline is initially skeptical of easygoing Anthony, but soon his earnest affection for Whitman's poetry and crispy waffle fries win her over. Over the course of the afternoon they discuss poetry, music, basketball, family, dreams, illness and death. There is a twist at the end that adds a dimension of meaning and magic to the play, but it is really just the icing on the cake.
Reading's production captures the youthful exuberance of these people on the cusp of adulthood without belittling their intelligence or reducing them to teenage stereotypes. Yes, Caroline is quirky and artistic. Yes, Anthony is confident and athletic. But more than any of those things they are two smart and open-minded young people appreciating some truly spectacular American art and grappling with questions that have occupied the minds of philosophers since the dawn of man. Anthony and Caroline have the energy for spirited discussions about poetry because they are young, but their insights are keen and their appreciation of Whitman's work is genuine.
From the very first moments of the play Inie-Richards conveys that combination of deep skepticism and youthful exuberance that only teenagers possess. In addition to being intriguing, likable and sympathetic, Inie-Richards is a completely convincing 17 year old. Fabre brings an awkward adolescent charm to the role of Anthony that also rings true. Inie-Richards and Fabre both show evolution and growth over the course of the play and it is a pleasure to watch them on stage together. Caroline's room is pitch perfect thanks to Dylan Jamison and Will Scribner's thoughtful set design. Bridget Brennan's costume designs are simple but similarly on point.
I and You is a play about two high school students working on a homework project together. But it is also about how poetry can reach through time to speak to us in a deeply personal way. And how music can tell vivid and powerful stories. It is about the way opening up to other people makes us vulnerable and how shared vulnerability can empower. It is about death and the fear of death, and taking the time to appreciate life. Going to see the People's Light production of I And You will undoubtedly give you a great deal to appreciate.
I And You runs through Sunday, April 23rd at the People's Light & Theatre Company's Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA. For tickets, call the box office at 610-644-3500 or visit peopleslight.org.