The Kitchen Theatre’s ‘I and You’ captures emotional turmoil of life and death
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Who: The Kitchen Theatre

Where: 417 W. State St. Ithaca, New York 14850

When: November 8-22

Tickets: $15-$40

The Kitchen Theatre is no stranger to shows with just two actors, as seen in their most recent two-actor play shown last month, “The Mountaintop.” For the second show of their 25th anniversary season, the Kitchen Theatre returns with the same attention to dialogue and dynamic actor chemistry with “I and You,” by Lauren Gunderson, directed by The Kitchen Theatre Company’s Artistic Associate, Emily Jackson.

“I and You” examines the lives of two teens, Caroline (Anna Sefanic) and Anthony (Ian Duff), who spark an ongoing, passionate and heated conversation over an English project on Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” The project must be completed before morning and, as the hours tread on, Caroline and Anthony no longer discuss only the works of Walt Whitman. This dead civil war poet’s work influences these two teens to come to terms with what life and death mean and how to cope.

Ill stricken Caroline is portrayed by Sefanic with such shattering relatability it’s almost too real for comfort, while Duff depicts Anthony’s heartache over a basketball teammate’s death as if it actually happened right there in Caroline’s room. This was a glimpse into Anthony’s experience, what he saw, as well as how he felt seeing the boy’s lifeless body on the court. It was refreshing seeing Caroline and Anthony respond differently to grief as an appropriate testament to two complex characters. Furthermore, Caroline’s awkwardness in her tone and dialogue garnered a believable response from Anthony, a sudden burst of anger at Caroline’s confused empathy that cut through the air.

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Caroline continuously glared and sometimes smiled at Anthony at all the right moments. And, Anthony’s physicality and expressions reacted to Caroline’s outbursts in the most honest manner. These were two major details that showed Caroline and Anthony evolve as the story progressed, with Sefanic and Duff committing to each character’s very human reactions to the emotional turmoil of life’s ups and downs.

“I and You’s” 90’s style sitcom-like humor towards the beginning was soon forgotten as the show blossomed into an intelligent, witty and emotional rollercoaster the deeper Caroline and Anthony’s dialogue went.

The show was long, but the Kitchen Theatre’s “I and You” maintained interest the entire time. The chemistry between Caroline and Anthony turned this play into a show worth watching until the very end.