WESTON — “I and You” is lots of fun. Until it isn’t. And then it becomes indescribably beautiful.
Weston Playhouse opened a delicious and richly rewarding production of Lauren Gunderson’s 2014 award-winning play — part comedy, part drama — Saturday at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, the company’s intimate new theater. The configurable stage played an important role in the play’s dramatic finale.
Anthony arrives uninvited — and unwanted — in Caroline’s bedroom spouting Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” A high school classmate, he tells her that they have an assignment based on the revered poem. Due tomorrow.
Caroline is not amused. Sickly all her life with liver disease, she has been absent from school for the year awaiting a suitable transplant donor. Despite her loneliness, she is not receptive to Anthony’s entreaties, suspecting him of pitying her. And she’s not nice about it. But for some reason Anthony is persistent. And Caroline, despite herself, welcomes the company. Without backing down, Caroline allows Anthony to interact with her and the two get to know each other, from teenage silliness to Caroline’s feelings about death — and Walt Whitman.
But Anthony has a secret — one that will change Caroline’s life forever.
Gunderson is supposed to have been the most-produced playwright of 2017, but some of her works have that “afterschool special” superficiality more appropriate for community theater. Not so with “I and You,” which is a powerful human drama that is full of wit and charm.
The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company production, directed by Johanna Gruenhut, enjoyed all of those qualities and an excellent cast at Saturday’s performance. Tim Mackabee’s teen bedroom set and Jesse Belsky’s subtle lighting changes created a dramatically effective atmosphere. Jordan Tyson delivered a truly layered performance as Caroline. At once unpleasant and sympathetic, the layers were effectively peeled, never too quickly and sometimes returning. Tyson effectively created a normal teen with severely abnormal issues.
Despite a penchant for speaking with his hands, Glenn Stott as Anthony matched Tyson all the way. He too had layers, convincingly revealing himself as not just the all-American boy she accuses him of being. Most importantly, the two achieved an intimacy on stage that kept the story riveting.
Weston Playhouse’s “I and You” was not only delightfully entertaining and unexpected, it was beautifully touching.