Emotions of Moxie’s Bittersweet ‘I and You’ Ring True

Justine Sombilon and Miles Henry. (Photos courtesy of Moxie Theatre.)

High school can be a difficult time for teenagers. Though some look back at those years as their glory days, others feel quite differently.

Regardless, adolescents are still able to find meaningful connections through struggles, which is explored in Moxie Theatre and Electric Company Theatre’s production of the touching drama, I and You.

On a random school night, a young basketball player, Anthony (Miles Henry) visits his classmate’s, Caroline (Justine Sombilon), house to work on a group project about Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself.”

Caroline does not want to contribute to the report, but Anthony eventually convinces her that they need to work together in order to be successful. Over the course of the evening, Caroline starts to open up to Anthony, and a genuine friendship begins to blossom.

At first, Lauren Gunderson’s writing makes Caroline’s pessimistic and closed off personality too over the top and exaggerated.

However, once Caroline agrees to help Anthony, the narrative picks up significantly as more information is exchanged, and the rest of Gunderson’s script is full of smart, funny, and human moments.

The text highlights Whitman’s accomplishments, without losing the audience in the details. Theatregoers who love Whitman should enjoy the references to his work, and those that barely know him, will appreciate his unique voice. Gunderson’s dialogue captivates on stage, due to Callie Prendiville’s, the associate artistic director of Moxie, direction.

Prendiville’s staging (the video was filmed and edited by John Brooks) emphasizes the intimate conversations between Caroline and Anthony. Her focus on the characters allows the central relationship to be emotionally impactful as the events of the night unfold. Prendiville gets authentic performances from Sombilon and Henry’s accurate depictions of contrasting youths.

Justine Sombilon.

The connection that forms between the unlikely friends is hard to resist, thanks to the acting from the leads. Both Caroline and Anthony are dealing with dark issues, that are intensely expressed during their individual monologues.

Technical elements that standout are Reiko Huffman’s set, which amusingly depicts Caroline’s messy bedroom, and Mason Pilevsky’s audio, which features memorable uses of John Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement” from his album, “A Love Supreme,” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

Each prerecorded Zoom presentation opens with high school students reading winning poems from Moxie’s “Song of Yourself Virtual Poetry Slam” contest, and ends with post show content.

I and You works so well, because of Gunderson’s empathetic and bittersweet depiction of finding unexpected hope in difficult times. The story resonates equally with high school students and older adults.

I and You is available for viewing through March 28.

Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

Photo of Moxie Theatre
Moxie Theatre
Work 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N San Diego CA 92115 USA Work Phone: 858-598-7620 Website: Moxie Theatre website
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David Dixon

A fan of theatre from a young age, David Dixon began writing reviews while in middle school, for Union Tribune’s Rated G column and sdcnn.com. He was the Entertainment Editor for SDSU’s The Daily Aztec. Currently, he contributes to San Diego Community News Network, a regional reviewer for Talkin’ Broadway, an interviewer for San Diego Theatre Reviews and has won several San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. David is a San Diego Theatre Critics Circle member, an American Theatre Critics Association member & Regional Theatre Tony Award voter.

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