I and You: Theater review by David Cote
Poet Walt Whitman famously claimed a self that contained multitudes, but Lauren Gunderson’s slender drama has but two characters to keep it chugging along. About halfway through, you give up hoping that an offstage, oft-mentioned mom will suddenly appear, and you become aware of how much playwriting skill it takes to keep an audience focused on a 90-minute two-hander that is basically an attenuated sketch with a twist ending.
Sorry! I’ve got your antennae twitching for what reveal lies at the end of I and You. With a title like that (ostensibly about Whitman’s use of pronouns), you might expect that high schoolers Caroline (Kayla Ferguson) and Anthony (Reggie D. White) are linked by some mysterious force. Are they two facets of the same personality? Is one of them symbolic? A dream or hallucination? Keep guessing, kids; to Gunderson’s credit, the final twist may come as a surprise.
At least, it did for me. A more puzzle-oriented spectator might spot the ending a ways off. In either case, the journey there is a bit too padded and not sufficiently distracting. It unfolds in Caroline’s bedroom as she and Anthony wrangle over a presentation on Leaves of Grass. The actors are lively and likeable, meeting cute with much shouting and confusion, then sharing intimacies, pain and a flash of possible romance. I wanted to care more about them or else spend 15 minutes less in their presence. No “gotcha!” denouement can substitute for restlessness.—David Cote
59E59 (Off Broadway). By Lauren Gunderson. Directed by Sean Daniels. With Kayla Ferguson, Reggie D. White. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.