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BWW Review: I AND YOU at Des Moines Playhouse

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Don't Spoil The Ending

BWW Review: I AND YOU at Des Moines Playhouse
Clifton Antoine as Anthony
Natalie Grote as Caroline
Photo by Brent Isenberger.

Theatre takes us on a journey each time we see a show. Over the last few months we have missed going on these journeys. Sometimes it's a comical journey, and other times an emotional journey that sticks with you for days. Friday evening, Des Moines Playhouse continued opening their season with a powerful yet emotional journey with "I and You" by Lauren Gunderson,. Her work Silent Sky was seen during the Playhouse's 2018-2019 season.

For their opening night, they again gave people the option to attend in person, or stream the show virtually. As performances continue, they will only be available for in-person performance.

"I and You," tells the story of Caroline, a girl who hasn't been to school for a while due to battling an illness. She is visited by her classmate Anthony, who has come over to work on an assignment for their English class, due the next day. While they start the assignment, we see each character has a proverbial wall that needs to come down for them to work together and complete the assignment. Will they be able to open up to each other and complete this assignment? That you will have to go to the show to see. If the description seems vague, it's supposed to be. I don't want to spoil the ending.

As with "Weekend Comedy," I attended the opening performance virtually. For "I And You," the Playhouse used a different streaming service. This seemed to fix the issues they had the week before with the feeds cutting out. With "I And You," missing a moment, would have meant missing a lot of the emotional work the actors are doing, as well as the set up for the ending, which I'm still thinking about as I write this review. A much as it impacted me watching it via stream, I can only imagine how much more powerful it would have been seeing it live in the theatre.

The play takes the audience on an emotional journey. One moment your eyes are heart is filled with laughter, and the next your eyes are filled with tears. The emotional roller-coaster these characters go in is a dream for any actors. This production under the direction of Katy Merriman is led by Natalie Grote as Caroline and Clifton Antoine as Anthony. Both Grote and Antoine do an amazing job of effortlessly switching between being comedic, and also at moments giving heartfelt performances.

One of the fun parts about seeing both "Weekend Comedy" and "I and You," was how creatively the stage is used. This is thanks to Nicolas Amundson's brilliant set design. If they hadn't listened to the pre-show talk, which I highly recommend attending, I don't think you would notice the set pieces that are the same between shows. The way they are used and reimagined for "I And You" makes it feel like there was a different set used when in reality, it is all in how the set is decorated for the show.

Another highlight of the show for me was the use of lights and sound. At the start of the show, it seems that Virgil Kleinhesselink's lighting design and Katy Merriman's sound design were going to be a few cues of lights up and down or song on and off. This is exactly what is called for at the part of the show. But as the show goes on, as the characters start revealing more about themselves, the lighting and the sound do the same. This all leads to the climax of the show where an amazing soundscape, mixed with the lights led to an ending that reminded me of the magical ending of "Silent Sky," just a few years ago, a play also written by Lauren Gunderson.

If you are comfortable with getting out of the house and seeing a show, then head over to Des Moines Playhouse and see "I and You." From the amazing performances to the magical tech, this will be an evening you won't soon forget. "I and You" is currently running in rep with "Weekend Comedy" through November 15. To find out more about the show, or purchase tickets, visit https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/i-and-you/

Review was written by DC Felton
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