I and You

Penguin Rep Theatre, Stony Point

I wanna know if you think this play accurately depicts how teens act today.

By Andrew Andrews

Johnathan Dougan and Mairead O’Neill star in Penguin Rep Theatre’s production of Lauren Gunderson’s I and You. Original photos by Dorice Arden Madronero.

Caroline is alone in her room, listening to music, when a young man bursts in with a plate of cookies, a bag of waffle fries, and a homework assignment that needs her help.

Caroline is a 17-year-old shut-in who desperately needs a liver transplant. The young man is Anthony, whom she’s never met but is her classmate in Miss Branson’s American Lit class.

The assignment—a poster and presentation about Walt Whitman’s use of pronouns in Leaves of Grass—is due tomorrow, but it’s in pretty bad shape.

At first, Caroline is simply alarmed by Anthony’s presence. But as he calms her down and convinces her to focus on their work, the two strangers quickly become friends and confidants, leading in the direction of “something more” despite undertones of implicit prejudice.

The cast and crew (L-R): Shane Riordan (Production Manager/Technical Director), O’Neill, Jamil Chokachi (Company Manager), Martin Vreeland (Lighting Designer), Thomas Caruso (director), Michael Palmer (Production Stage Manager), Dougan and Max Silverman (Sound Designer).

It seems I and You is one of those productions that come across differently depending on the viewer.

My partner very much enjoyed this performance, feeling that the back-and-forth between Caroline and Anthony reflected the way teenagers really do talk to each other.

By comparison, I found it more like an older person’s perception of young people, as though the playwright was trying to recall what it was like to be half her age. At times, the communication is shallow and hyperbolic (and what grown-up doesn’t like to accuse kids of being shallow and hyperbolic?); elsewhere, the characters (especially Anthony) sound deeper and more intellectual than even the brightest senior high school students I’ve known.

Then again, I haven’t been seventeen for longer than I care to remember.

Then again (again), show me a teen today who cares the slightest bit about Facebook, while Caroline seems obsessed.

My partner and I did agree that the production is well-executed, from the casting to the delivery to the set design, which provides that sort of fly-on-the-wall feeling that you’re actually in Caroline’s bedroom, watching the story unfold.

The script never exactly stagnates, but Caroline’s constant wavering between demanding that Anthony be gone and asking him to stick around grew old on me quickly, like an argument with a loved one that rehashes the same misunderstandings without ever reaching new ground or finding resolution.

While I never saw the heart-wrenching ending coming (and I consider it the highlight of the show), my partner more-or-less predicted it about half-way through, which nonetheless did not detract from their enjoyment of the performance.

Full-price tickets come in around forty bucks; considering a cast of only two actors, I expect a five-star experience to justify that kind of outlay. Although the production value is pretty high and I doubt there is a bad seat in the house, when I factor in the script, the math just doesn’t work out.

If you go, please take a teenager, then tell me what they thought.

Andrew Andrews attended I and You at Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Point on Saturday, April 30, 2022 @ 4:00pm to write this review.