Driving down 10th Street in downtown Omaha, the illumi- nated Blue Barn Theatre is de- signed to attract attention, and the inside is just as impressive. Photographs from countless past productions line the cobalt walls leading to the singular theater at the center. Lauren Gunderson’s play, “I and You,” is the third show of the nonprofit’s 30th sea- son. Running until Feb. 24, “I and You” is well worth the $35 general admission ticket.
With 90 minutes, one set, no intermission and only two char- acters, I was not anticipating to
be starstruck by the production. However, “I and You” proved to be far from dull, and visibly seized the audience’s attention. The show features two teenag- ers, Caroline (Anna Jordan) and Anthony (Jordan Smith), who start out as complete strangers even though they are high school classmates. The play begins with Anthony waltzing into Caroline’s room for help in completing a last-minute class project about the American poet Walt Whit- man.
According to Anthony, Car- oline’s absence from school and poor health makes her the “mys- tery girl.” She is in desperate need of a new liver and has struggled
with being sickly her entire life. Caroline is initially reluctant to work with the boy she knows nothing about, but his persistent passion for Whitman’s poetry and intrigue with her life ultimately draws her in.
The early awkwardness be- tween them is intentionally drawn out, and actually high- lights the greater issue with this generation possessing a lack of social skills. “I and You” is for all ages, but specifically appeals to a younger audience due to its focus on the detrimental effects of so- cial media and lack of authentici- ty among youth.
Gunderson utilizes the work of Whitman in her play to further
discuss the meaning of life, love and the reality of death. Whit- man’s poem, “Song of Myself” from “Leaves of Grass” was fit- tingly on display in the lobby for theater-goers to examine prior to the start of the show. This was helpful since passages from the book were frequently quoted in the play. Whitman’s work inspires Caroline and Anthony to discuss how vital it is to stay true to one- self no matter the circumstanc- es. The pair share their intimate feelings about death and quickly form a relationship through their search for the purpose in life.
The play is not entirely seri- ous, with ongoing corny jokes and comical tension between the
two. Jordan’s talent ultimately stood out through her convinc- ing expressions of raw emotion, because it is not an easy feat to authentically represent someone who has been through such trau- ma. Smith was just as impressive, but was playing a more straight- forward role.
It is hard not to spoil the dra- matic ending, because the plot twist left the entire audience agape. The conclusion forced all of those in the theater to think about life’s meaning. And for that reason alone, I would see the show a dozen more times if I could.