Manbites Dog Theater’s regional premiere of I and You by Lauren Gunderson is a story of two teenagers that will grip Triangle theatergoers in ways that must be experienced to understand. I and You is easily one of the cleverest plays local audiences will see, and it is unlikely anyone who sees it will ever forget it. This is theatrical entertainment so rare it defies description. Gunderson has become a past master playwright with I and You, capturing the language of modern teenagers, both verbal and physical, and blending the utterly simple with the immensely profound.
The San Francisco, CA playwright and screenwriter’s website describes the play in this way: “One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, an urgent assignment from their English teacher. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months, but she is as quick and sardonic as Anthony is athletic, sensitive, and popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.”
Manbites Dog co-founder and artistic director Jeff Storer has cast this two-person show well, with students from the Durham School of the Arts. Senior Natalie Izlar is Caroline, and sophomore Gerald Jones III is Anthony.
Storer’s sure-handed direction keeps the dialogue flowing and permits spaces of internalization for both characters. Blocking is natural and comfortable in the small playing area of Caroline’s bedroom, which is designed by Derrick Ivey to reflect her personality, with artsy decorations — butterflies, doo dads, odds and ends — but “not as girly as some girls,” to quote Anthony at one point.
Natalie Izlar draws us into Caroline’s world slowly and with courage, measured speech, nervous coverings by manipulating her hair and cuddling her stuffed “Twilight Turtle.” Her facial expressions and gestures, along with her teen-speak are authentic and, with the character’s dark humor, reveal the extent of the turmoil within her.
Gerald Jones III shows us the tenderness and sincerity of his character, Anthony. His penetrating attention to Caroline shows the character’s need to understand this girl whom he has become so close to in such a profound way. The skill of these two talented performers reflects well upon the Durham School of the Arts as well as Jeff Storer’s able direction.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 6th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://www.cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7117; and Dec. 3rd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/i-and-you/Event?oid=4297364.
Manbites Dog Theater presents I AND YOU at 8:15 p.m. Dec. 11-13, 2 p.m. Dec. 14, and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 17-20 at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $10 weeknights and $20 Friday-Sunday, except $5 weeknights and $10 weekends for students 18+ with ID and a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.
BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or https://manbites.tixato.com/buy.
2014-15 SEASON: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2014-15-season/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater, and https://twitter.com/ManbitesTheater.
I and You (2012 play): http://iandyouplay.tumblr.com/ (official website).
Lauren Gunderson (San Francisco, CA playwright and screenwriter): http://laurengunderson.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/LaurenMGunderson (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/LalaTellsAStory (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Gunderson (Wikipedia).
Jeff Storer (Manbites Dog artistic director and full professor of the practice in the Duke University Department of Theater Studies): https://www.facebook.com/jeff.storer.9 (Facebook page) and https://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people/jeff-storer (Duke Theater Studies bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.