The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Studio Theatre offerings return with I & You, a captivating play by Lauren Gunderson about youth, love, life and extraordinary human connection. It’s on stage from Aug. 22-31.
The two-person cast features Capilano University musical theatre grads Nick Bradbury as Anthony and Jolene Bernardino as Caroline, portraying two high school students who engage in some uplifting banter.
Caroline is housebound due to illness and Anthony bursts in unannounced, uninvited and armed with a copy of Walt Whitman’s poetry for a school project due the next day. Caroline is not impressed, but an unlikely friendship develops as the two bond over poetry and a seemingly mundane homework assignment.
The creative team includes: John Han in his directing debut, Mark DuMez as set designer, Mary Downes as costume designer and Ronaye Hayes as stage manager, with lighting design by Matthew Wilkerson.
Bradbury, 24, from Vancouver, appeared in last season’s production of Grease that set the record for ticket sales at the theatre before being surpassed by Mamma Mia! this summer.
“I’ve been doing theatre as a whole since I was nine years old,” he said.
Bradbury has performed at Theatre Under The Stars and with various companies as well as doing film and television work.
As one of the principals in I & You, “I absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s been an incredible experience working with John and Jolene and Ronaye.
“I think with the intimacy of the script, it’s really important to be collaborative.”
The play, Bradbury added, “I think it’s very relatable to young people and older people as well. I think audiences of all ages (12+) will be able to grasp onto something.”
Bernardino, 21, also grew up on the Lower Mainland. “I came in with theatre first as a fan,” she said.
It’s been a real passion for her and a treat to be making her professional debut at Chemainus with a performance like I & You.
“I love it so much,” Bernardino enthused. “The very time I got my hands on this, I knew I had to be in this.”
As for her character, Caroline, “she’s very sarcastic, very witty. There’s something people resonate well with Lauren Gunderson’s work.”
Han has become a jack-of-all trades in the industry and directing his own performance was the logical next step after a few previous stints as an assistant director.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s very humbling, too. You’re there to gently guide and trouble-shoot. Really, the work is done by the actors. You’re here as a point of contact.
“The two actors we have are so dedicated. They’re brave, they’re smart, they’re very loving. I think they have a bright future in their career.”
Han regards Gunderson as a brilliant playwright and she wrote this play with diversity in mind.
“We don’t often see teenagers represented on stage,” he said. “When they do, they tend to not have a depth of reality in the portrayal of their characters.”
This performance is much different, with the spotlight on teens, the world around them and their take on it.
“During the show, these two teenage characters who are nothing alike meet in her room, they find and discover within each other a depth of friendship and wisdom that they couldn’t on their own,” Han explained.
“Through our show, they’re able to strip the layers they built for themselves. They realize we are all one, all the same – no matter ethnicity, religion, anything.”
I & You plays in the theatre’s intimate rehearsal facility with limited seating Thursday, Aug. 22 and 29 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 23 and 30 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 24 and 31 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m.; and Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call the theatre box office at 1-800-565-7738.