I Will Follow
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 16, 2009
In 1980, when U2's first album, Boy, debuted, its lead single was the song "I Will Follow." Little did the impetuous young quartet from the north side of Dublin know, but that song would inspire new meaning over the next 20-odd years. U2 have grown into the biggest band in the world and still inspire millions to follow them around the globe and with each new album—from the casual fan to the fan-atic. One those millions is Barri Tsavaris; she has chronicled her life-long fandom, and its deep effect on her life in her play, aptly titled I Will Follow, debuting in the FringeNYC Festival.
Now, as a disclaimer, Tsavaris's play—which is basically in one-woman-show format with a bit of help from John Keabler and Melissa Center to help fill out the burden of some characters—I Will Follow is a U2 love-fest. Those who like to condemn front-man Bono (lovingly given the title Bono-god by Tsavaris) for his exploits, musical and political, or just don't like the music will not find any new love from the show.
The show follows Tsavaris from her first moment hearing U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on a car stereo as an eight-year-old, through her teenage years and her growing love for U2, through trips to Dublin to walk U2 fan paths and visit the band members' houses, through first love and heartbreak, and up to meeting the man himself, Bono, at a taping for HBO's show on musicians, Off the Record.
The play is aided by the choice that Tsavaris and her fellow performers never take themselves too seriously. Tsavaris portrays herself throughout this journey flanked by Keabler and Center, two solid, versatile performers filling in as every other character in her life—her lover, her mother, her best friend, and her disgruntled boss, who's a bit sick of the excuses Barri fabricates to get out of work to see her favorite band. Keabler has a particularly hilarious turn as the Irish groundskeeper at Bono's house.
The script is a charming, enjoyable ride. At times, it seems to waver about just what it wants to focus on more—Tsavaris's life events or her fandom. While usually these are one and the same, at times large events in her life stray from having much to do with U2.
I Will Follow, at its best, manages to provide a fascinating portrait of the double-edged sword of fandom and love for a band (or really anything we may find ourselves fans of). It is, at once, a love story and a cautionary tale. It details just how much one can lose by showing perhaps too much devotion, but at the same time it shows how one person (or a band) can give someone something to believe in, in life. For U2 fans (mostly the more devoted, but the casual as well), I Will Follow will be a charming ride through the band's career and maybe even their own fandom. But really, for anyone who's ever been a fan of anything, or even for those who still haven't found what they're looking for, I Will Follow is a hilarious and poignant look at just how much we give as "fans."