SALT LAKE CITY — With You is a world premiere play, written and directed by Jamie Wilcox, that is part of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. The show starts with a charming interaction of two best friends having a drink: Georgia (played by Amy Livingston) and Christopher (played by Tristian Osborne). A waiter comes in, Dustin (played by Pedro Flores), and Christopher uses his gay best friend skills to play matchmaker. After a few scenes where the friendship develops into a dating relationships, I wondered if With You was ever going to be more than a conventional love story. I learned that I was very wrong to even wonder.
The story moved into one of mental illness, love, and the challenges that happened with that. As both a mental health counselor and a theatre critic, I noticed how the significant and real issues of mental health and mental health care were handled in a way that was beautiful, raw, and real. Flores really played someone who has a mental health condition well. Dustin’s concerns about his mental health challenges, the reality of stigma, and the side effects of medication were all given a compassionate portrayal. Livingston’s ability to show the emotion of being a loved one who wants to help and does not know how was a believable and heart wrenching performance. And there was an important scene near the end where Osborne performed some acts that a true and loving friend would and should do for Livingston, which gave the play an extremely moving climax. I commend Wilcox and Amanda Dayton (as the intimacy and conflict coach) for creating such vivid scenes with the actors.
There are triggering themes that are discussed With You. I was glad to have a few moments after this performance to breathe and calm myself. The show was beautiful, and I am glad that I saw it, but audience members who have been affected by these themes (like myself) may need a few moments after to make sure they are ok. That is how real With You is — and how important.