BWW Review: Artists Rep's I AND YOU is a Lesson in Poetry and Love

BWW Review: Artists Rep's I AND YOU is a Lesson in Poetry and Love

A poster presentation on Walt Whitman's use of pronouns in Song of Myself...due tomorrow. This sounds like an assignment from hell to 17-year-old Caroline. But as she works through the project with Anthony, a fellow high school student and her polar opposite in many ways, Caroline learns that poetry can be a powerful catalyst for human connection, even across a great divide.

This is the simple idea that Lauren Gunderson takes to cosmic heights in her award-winning play I AND YOU, now running at Artists Repertory Theatre. And, of course, it's not really that simple.

Caroline is sick with liver disease, and she's missed a lot of school, meaning she's behind in her course work and also in her social life. She's also not particularly nice, especially to Anthony, a student she doesn't recognize when he bursts into her room spouting obscure phrases of poetry and carrying a practically blank poster board. But he's kind, and what he lacks in poster-making ability, he makes up for in a visceral understanding of, and passion for, Whitman's poem. Slowly, they come to trust each other and achieve a meeting of the minds on a higher level than they likely ever would have in the halls of school.

The true depth of I AND YOU isn't revealed until the end, an unexpected moment when the meaning of the pronouns in Whitman's poem stops being an analytical exercise and jumps to life on stage. The two young actors do an excellent job of navigating toward that moment. Emily Eisele's face is highly expressive -- watching her is a roller coaster ride of emotion. And only the most hard-hearted could fail to be charmed by Blake Stone. There are times when the journey feels a bit long and rambling, but so does the poem on which it's based, and sometimes in life you just have to take the journey.

I AND YOU runs through June 17. I recommend you see it. When you do, pay extra attention to Tim Stapleton's incredible set, which brings the production to a whole new and magical plane. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Russell J. Young

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From This Author Krista Garver

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