At one point in the production of Lauren Gunderson’s I and You at the Fountain Theatre, the main character’s bedroom falls apart. Unfortunately, the play had fallen apart long before that moment.
Now, I make it a rule not to write reviews of bad plays.
What’s the point?
To show how witty I can be while tap dancing on the rubble of some theatrical wreck?
As a playwright myself, and a lover of theatre, I don’t wish to do that.
However, I’m making an exception this time.
You know, German is an amazing language, whose vocabulary boasts some truly remarkable words like “schlimmbesserung”*, “feierabend” •, and “drachenfutter” ♦.
But one of the commendable terms the Germans have coined is “backpfeifengesicht,” which translates as: “A face that should be slapped.”
Well, dear reader, in I and You we have a “production that should be slapped.”
Caroline (Jennifer Finch) is a young shut-in from life. Too sick to attend her final year of high school, she is confined to her bedroom in a grim waiting game with time, hoping for the life saving operation if, and when, the liver she desperately needs becomes available.
Anthony (Matthew Hancock), a boyishly charming classmate arrives unannounced bearing in hand the American Lit project on the poetry of Walt Whitman they’ve been assigned to work on as a team.
At first Caroline is flustered by this intrusion into her private space, sick of people treating her either like some damaged object or some freak to be pitied.
“It makes a shitty life a whole lot more fun,” is Caroline’s reply.
And so goes the banter.
About twenty minutes into this production I found myself fighting the urge to stand up in the audience and shout: “All right, all right, take my liver! Just end this play!”
You read here, the ranting of one very confused critic.
Playwright Gunderson has gathered quite a number of very prestigious awards and honors for herself. However from this example I can’t see why.
Director Robin Larsen has likewise a very distinguished track record, whose past work at the Odyssey and the Antaeus I have justly praised. So, I am therefore assuming that, on the first day of rehearsal for this show, the stage was stormed by a gang of nefarious desperados who carried her off screaming, and that even as I write this she is locked in a trunk somewhere crying out piteously for help.
The Fountain Theatre is high on my list of favorite venues in this town.
The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev and The Brother Size; which, by the way, young Hancock was involved with and turned in an outstanding performance. These were all superb productions of wonderful plays.
So I ask myself, “Why did they want to produce this?” Did the folks at the Fountain lose a bet?
As I said, very confused.
I will reframe from commenting on the two young actors in the show. They tried. But all their hard work accomplished little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
There was nothing in Ms. Gunderson’s writing that connected for me. The situation, the characters’ interaction all smacked of disingenuousness, and the “twist” ending to the events on stage… well… insult to injury.
Perhaps Ms. Gunderson imagines she’s given her audience a dramatic payoff; if that’s the case she owes us change.
And so a tedious evening at a fine theater ends with an ineffectual, hackneyed gimmick, one that Rod Serling wouldn’t have tolerated on the very worst episode of The Twilight Zone.
Mr. Serling would simply have sent this whole production to the “corn field.”
* * *
* A supposed improvement that only make things worse.
• That happiness one feels as the work day approaches its end.
♦ A peace offering given to a wife by a guilty husband.
RUNS SATURDAY, APRIL 11 AND CONTINUES THROUGH JUNE 14,
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