Recommended *** One of my favorite “storefront” theater companies, Redtwist, on Bryn Mawr, is presenting the Chicago premiere of Lauren M. Gunderson’s “I and You”, winner of the 2014 Steinberg/ATCA Award for “Best New Play”. During my eye surgery and other Holiday events, I missed the opening of this Jeff Recommended production, so now that my major holiday events are over, I picked myself up and headed down to The Redtwist located at 1044 West Bryn Mawr. While it only has a week or so left in its run, I felt the need to see this work and to explore its story.
This is a two person play, a sort of mystery that deals with wonder, hope and in some ways love. It is 85 minutes in duration, in three scenes with very short blackouts to show that time has elapsed. There is no intermission, which is very fitting as the beauty of the story and the involvement of our characters would be hard to follow with any type of interval longer than 30 seconds.
The set by Sarah JJH Watkins is that of a teen age girl’s room, and while it appears ordinary, it is as magical as the story itself. Our teen age girl, Caroline (solidly played by Grace Melon) is a home-schooled girl who resides at home with her mother. Caroline is waiting for a liver transplant and while she is being schooled by the school with the help of her mother, she is far more concerned about her being held captive in her room, in a state of depression. It comes out during the story that her family has been split up because of her illness and her father has left.
Directed by David Prete, who for the most part uses the intimate space at Redtwist with just the right flair, as the lights come up, we find that Caroline has a visitor in her room, Anthony (deftly handled by Rejinal Simon). He is there as her partner in a school project which is due and for which they have been assigned to work on together. They are very different. She is the artsy-fartsy type and he the jock. The project they are to work on is the work of Walt Whitman.
As they get to know each other, and we get to know them,, we learn more about each one and of course a great deal about Whitman and his work. There are some spots in the play where Caroline and Anthony fight with each other over the differences in their lives and their families as well as their races. She is White, he is African-American. How can these two opposites attract each other. There is an old saying that “opposites attract” and so as the story unfolds , we do see that these strangers begin to share a connection. Is it because of the writing of Whitman? Is it because of the over powering reasoning that Anthony expresses as he teaches Caroline about compassion, tolerance and at long last , love?
There is some strong mystery in this story that I will not divulge, except to say that one must listen very closely to every word that Gunderson has written. If you concentrate and listen, clearly the surprise ending will make sense. I was very impressed with the handling of every detail of the story telling experience; the lighting (Zoe Mikel-Stites), sound (David Prete), and props (Robert Eric Shoemaker). It is a shame that due to the size of the theater and the shortness of the run, many of you will not get an opportunity to see this premiere. I am sure that it will be back again, somewhere- sometime. Meanwhile, you still have until the 4th of January and the remaining performances are as follows:
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $30-$35 ( no performance on New Year’s Day) and seniors and students get $5 off.
To order your tickets, and I would do so right away, call 773-728-7529 or go to www.redtwist.org
There is street parking in the area, some metered, some not and the theater is a short walk from the Red Line Bryn Mawr stop. Lots of dining spots on the street.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “I and You”