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Review: I AND YOU Tugs at Hearts at Stages Repertory

Melissa Molano and Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott in Stages Repertory Theatre's production of I AND YOU.

Photo by Jon Shapley.

Anthony unexpectedly appears in his classmate's room to seek her help in completing a project on the night before it is due. Through an emotionally tumultuous journey, Anthony and Caroline delve into the mysteries of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", unaware that something deeper has brought them together.

I AND YOU won the 2014 ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award and was a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist. The play, directed by Seth Gordon and starring Melissa Molano and Mateo Mpindzi-Mott, is making its regional premiere at Stages Repertory Theatre and will close May 22, 2016.


Melissa Molano in Stages Repertory Theatre's
production of I AND YOU.
Photo by Jon Shapley.

The story unfolds delicately at the emotional micro level, as Caroline and Anthony aim and fire quips, looks, lines and embraces. First, Anthony must convince Caroline that he is who he claims to be, a boy in her class who needs help finishing their project. He chose her as his partner, and their teacher supposedly sent an email to Caroline, which she never actually checks. The project and presentation is over Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and they must complete a trifold poster board and a video presentation. They must demonstrate full understanding of the poem and Whitman's use of the pronouns "I AND YOU". Both characters share certain amounts of insecurity and fear, and these are their obstacles as they tread through the task of learning to trust one another. They must battle through the emotions of Caroline's impending death and a traumatic experience Anthony had earlier that afternoon. Finally, they must unite to finish their project and uncover the mystery that has brought them together.

Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott in Stages Repertory Theatre's
production of I AND YOU.
Photo by Jon Shapley.

Melissa Molano (BOOK OF MAGGIE) plays the quick-to-react, bedridden, and feisty Caroline. Caroline is sick, she is dying and though part of her has accepted it, she has not fully come to terms with it or understood why it's happening. She is frightened and confused, but masks it with anger. She is sweet and vulnerable, but disguises it with toughness. Molano is stellar and captures the emotional and physical ups and downs that a dying teen-angst driven character would have. Caroline is dancing on her bed to Elvis one minute, and then losing breath and nearly fainting- but actually falling asleep instead, the next minute. She is angry and mean, then playful and forgiving. She flies deep into the emotional gravity of each moment, and carries us along each beat of the play to its climax.


Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott and Melissa Molano in
Stages Repertory Theatre's production of I and You.
Photo by Jon Shapley.

Mateo Mpindzi-Mott (MARIE ANTOINETTE) plays the intelligent poetry loving basketball player, Anthony. He can quote Whitman at the drop of a hat, loves John Coltrane, and tries to comfort Caroline at every turn. He is hiding something, and we can tell. There may be a reason why he is being so sweet, but we're not exactly sure why until he reveals a traumatic experience he had on the basketball court that day. However, something is still amiss. Mateo plays an energetic young romantic, and he does it well. As each emotional discovery compounds upon one another, and leads up to the dramatic conclusion, Mpindzi-Mott never misses a beat.

The set was not like any real teenager's room, but for good reason, as the story reveals. There is a computer at one corner of the room, speakers at the opposite end with bluetooth, a bed at the up right corner and a bean bag at down left. The furniture and columns feature circles that contrast the rectangular framed photos that hang along the upstage wall. LED colors vary through the circles in the columns at strategic moments in the show, and the single set change was magnificent. The bedroom's bright lighting is quickly, yet seamlessly contrasted as we are brought into the final moments of this wonderful play. I AND YOU is an emotional roller coaster, it tugs at your heart, and it's a story you won't soon forget.


I AND YOU

by Lauren Gunderson

May 04 - May 22 2016

Recommended for ages 14 and up.

REGIONAL PREMIERE

DIRECTED BY

Seth Gordon

STARRING

Melissa Molano (The Book of Maggie, Dollhouse)

Mateo Mpindzi-Mott (Marie Antoinette)

PERFORMANCE TIMES

Wednesdays & Thursdays 7:30p

Fridays & Saturdays 8:00p

Sundays 3:00p

TICKET INFO

Tickets start at $19

http://stagestheatre.com/tickets/how-to

Group rates also available:

Wed-Thu groups of 6+

Fri-Sat groups of 10+



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