Disclaimer: I love going to the Academy Theatre space in Hapeville. It’s conveniently located right off I-85 – so, check off the ‘Easy to Get To’ box. It’s profoundly intimate, and I am a big fan of Theatre in my lap, so to speak. The kind people who greet you and sell you reasonably priced snackage are unfailingly welcoming. If you haven’t been to this space – or Hapeville, lately, then I can only ask – What are you waiting for? Every time I venture up there, it seems like there’s a new restaurant or wine bar or something cool. Hapeville is happening, and I think Academy’s a big part of that. Oh, and there’s this: Academy and their sister wife Impact Theatre always present engaging, diverse theatre – which is Not something that other groups in the area are necessarily doing a good job at. Kudos.
Impact Theatre’s latest is the Lauren Gunderson two hander “I and You”, a show that is perfectly suited for this space. One set, two actors; seemingly intimate in tone but as it turns out, epic in theme. I feel compelled to confess that I am not Ms. Gunderson’s biggest fan, though I am certainly in the minority these days; she is, as everyone around these parts loves to tell, the most produced living playwright in America – and hails from around here, you know. But I am also perfectly willing to admit that my lack of the love could in fact just be simple ole jealousy. I too am a feminist playwright that favors literary and historic themes; she’s wildly popular, I’m not. Jeez.
But I did enjoy the ‘theme’ of this play, based as it was around the epic poetry of Walt Whitman, his hymn to America, Leaves of Grass. Damn you, Lauren. There you go again, picking a wonderful spine to hang your little love story on. But hold on – is it a love story? Or a journey of self discovery? I’m not going to tell you one darn thing about the plot, other than to say that it will hold your interest even as it revolves on small intimacies that circle around the big themes of Existence, and that the playwright has crafted a very tidy package that opens up to reveal…well, I just can’t. Don’t want to spoil a moment of your fun.
The two young actors acquit themselves very well. Sarah Turner is Caroline, a shut in; Efrem Whitaker her visitor. Their performances are engaging and energetic – perhaps, it might be said in the case of Turner, a little too … she’s the rosiest, peppiest dying girl I’ve ever seen. But, as it turns out (sorry, no spoilers) perhaps that’s scripted. There’s also, sorry to say, a lack of genuine connection between these two, even and most especially in the most intimate of moments. I’ll put that into the ‘youth’ category – these are very young people, and they are working hard. They never slow down for a moment and the frenetic activity holds emotion at bay. They were nonetheless ably directed by Impact’s AD Brenda Porter and Deadra Moore, who make fine use of the stage. I’d also like to point out the work of Set Designer Juana Harper, whose design is a literal Revelation.
A lovely script, a lovely production. Make the trip.