"I AND YOU," through Feb. 17, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 Broadway, Salt Lake City (801-355-2787 or artsaltlake.org); running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes (no intermission)
SALT LAKE CITY — With only one scene setting and a pair of actors, Pygmalion Theatre Company brings playwright Lauren Gunderson's "I and You" to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts stage. The production addresses important life elements, such as friendship, love, illness and death.
Under the direction of Teresa Sanderson, the drama-comedy stars 18-year-old Cora Fossen, a Cottonwood High School senior, and 21-year-old Tristan Johnson, a Westminster College theatre student. Fossen plays Caroline, a spunky, eccentric teenager with a passion for art whose life-threatening illness keeps her homebound. Johnson assumes the role of Anthony, an athletic, popular basketball player at their high school who arrives at Caroline's house seeking help on homework involving Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass."
Under the quickly-approaching deadline of their poetry assignment, Anthony and Caroline begin a strong friendship. Hesitant at first, they let down their barriers and reveal deep secrets and thoughts to one another while working on their project, all within one day. Through all the contagious laughter, comedic bantering, smiles and even tears, they begin to fall in love with each other, until tragedy strikes for both of them.
Although "I and You" features only one setting, it presents everything the viewer needs to understand its themes and characters. The stage is set to feature Caroline's bedroom, depicting a typical teenage girl's room, including photos of family and friends strung above the bed with twinkling lights, Caroline's stuffed animal and a large bed with throw pillows and blankets strewn about.
Athough the play features two incredible young actors, the sound and lights could be enhanced for easier hearing/viewing, as both elements were soft during opening night.
Johnson and Fossen do what many actors or actresses could not accomplish, as they solely perform together for over an hour with no intermission. The two complete each other as Fossen fills Caroline's portrayal with witty, sarcastic comments, and Johnson's Anthony is carefree, yet thoughtful and friendly. The duo doesn't need any supporting actors as they complement each other wonderfully and shine throughout the production. They are a delight to watch.
Content advisory: "I and You" features adult themes, strong language and some sexual humor.