Arts

Opposites Attract in 'I and You'

An athlete and a literary shut-in bond over Walt Whitman in new City Lights play.
PEACE IS ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL: High schoolers Anthony and Caroline fall for each other while studying Walt Whitman in 'I and You.'

City Lights Theater's latest production, I and You, explores death, mortality, poetry and the unlikeliest of adolescent pairings.

The story opens abruptly on teenaged Caroline (played by Ivette Deltoro), sitting in a messy room filled with dirty clothes, teddy bears and prescription bottles. As she browses her computer, a strange boy unexpectedly opens the door, sending her into a manic state. After he can explain himself—his name is Anthony and he's there in hopes of getting help on a class project—Caroline relents slightly and lets him in.

Anthony explains further that he needs to finish his project on Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass for a class that Caroline once attended. She is paranoid, boisterous, and strikingly insecure. By comparison, Anthony is idealistic and carefree, and almost too witty. But his relentless enthusiasm about the poem, Whitman, and life gets Caroline to drop her guard.

What follows is a wickedly funny, heartwarming, poignant—and sometimes tragic—course of events. At the start, Whitman's epic poem is treated as a safe, symbolic foundation for the pair's philosophical pondering. But even that forces the characters to question their own values—especially Caroline.

While both actors have their weaknesses, they're negligible. Davied Morales as Anthony comes across almost dreamlike. He's ethereal but forthright, carefree but incredibly passionate. At the other pole, Deltoro is bombastic, but insecure; aggravating but equally funny in her neurosis. There is a clear chemistry between the pair, which seems necessary for the play's plot turns to succeed.

Though the central motif of I and You—teenage love magically appearing between the jock and the outcast—is a played-out trope, it's quickly forgotten in the face of such superb writing and quality acting. Even before the stunning conclusion, the play serves as a pragmatic self-reflection, and a witty personal investigation into fear, love and mortality. The final act takes the play—and the audience—into something altogether shocking and new.

Originally written by playwright Lauren Gunderson, and directed by Noëlle GM Gibbs, City Lights' reproduction of I and You is a deeply personal and gratifying exploration of the sacred, with a pleasantly surprising twist on how far intimacy can take a person.

I and You
Thru Jun 19, 7:30pm, $17-$32
City Lights Theater Company, San Jose


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