The Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance opens its spring studio production “I And You” this week.
The two-actor play, an exploration of the uncanny connections people can have with each other, as well as a meditation on the continuity of life and death, hits the Studio Theatre stage (Building 25, room 110) on Thursday, April 20 at 8 p.m.
It focuses on high school seniors Caroline, played by second-year theatre student Ani Villarreal, and Anthony, portrayed by fourth-year theatre student Omar Busailah.
An illness has tethered Caroline to her bedroom for months, but the monotony – and her peace – is suddenly disrupted when Anthony arrives with a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and an urgency to complete an English assignment.
Quick and sarcastic, Caroline seems almost at extreme odds with the athletic, sensitive and popular Anthony, but they drop their guards and share secrets when a seemingly mundane poetry project reveals a more intimate reason for their meeting.
“It’s about two people who don’t know each other connecting in a very human way, and connecting over their unique qualities informed by their family lives, wants and desires,” says director Michael Bodie. “I want the audience to consider the strange ways they might connect with other people.”
This coming-of-age story is rife with snarky dialogue reminiscent of the indie film “Juno,” and might resonate with fans of young-adult fiction author John Green, whose novel “Paper Towns” also draws inspiration from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
Most of the snark stems from Caroline, from whose perspective Villarreal implores viewers to see things.
“When you’re watching the show, see how Caroline’s circumstances are the reason for her snarkiness,” she says.
Bodie says Caroline’s defensiveness toward Anthony is because she fears being hurt if she opens up.
“She doesn’t want to connect because she doesn’t want to eventually have a feeling of disconnection if it falls apart,” he says.
Busailah says his character, Anthony, knows Caroline’s body is ill, but her spirit is alive and well.
“He’s trying to help her by acknowledging that he sees her as a normal person, and Anthony uses Walt Whitman to communicate that despite the looming possibility of death,” Busailah says.
“I And You” plays at 8 p.m. on April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and at 2 p.m. on April 30. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students, staff, faculty and seniors. They can be purchased online.
For more information, visit www.cpp.edu/~class/theatre-new-dance.