How you react to the set of We Wrote This With You in Mind, a new play at Shaking the Tree Theatre, might speak volumes about you. The cutaway interior of a graffiti-covered kitchen is littered with crumpled up paper wads. Cabinets are missing doors. On the wall, someone has painted roughly: "We're having nightmares again."

Initially it looks like an abandoned house. Once the character played by Kai Hynes—referred to as Ensemble "B" in play materials—steps into the light, and the audience gets a load of his torn sweater and wide-leg jeans, you could restructure your impression to: poorly maintained house, perhaps by someone too inexperienced or depressed to care.

As the script progresses, we learn that "B" is essentially squatting in his parents' old restaurant. The other unnamed character—Ensemble "A," played by Kayla Hanson—joins him presently, ostensibly to check on a childhood friend going through a rough patch. However, once "B" related a dream where "A" had died, I remained firmly convinced she was a ghost for the rest of the show.

Kai Hynes (center) and Kayla Hanson (right) in "We Wrote This With You in Mind" - photo by rick liu

We Wrote This With You in Mind is an untangling of the feelings "B" has about his mother. [Correction: An earlier version of this article attributed those feelings to playwright Ken Yoshikawa, based on an interview excerpt. The quoted person was actually the work's director, Rebby Yuer Foster. According to Shaking the Tree's artistic director Samantha Van Der Merwe, Foster worked closely with Yoshikawa "on conceptualizing the script and both their stories are intertwined within it."]

Director Rebby Yuer Foster  imbued the work with their robust understanding of physicality, evidenced by "A" and "B" climbing around the stage: to stand on the table for emphasis or to huddle together stage center, reading the scattered garbage, which turns out to be poems. 

States of possession and / or inspiration interrupt the pair's dialogue—Hanson is particularly good at staring into the distance and making sounds that belong in a supernatural horror film like Ju-On: The Grudge. Yoshikawa's metaphor for the overlap between writing a poem and being possessed is clear without being overdone. Even if you're not a fan of poetry you can surely understand the horror of it.

We Wrote This with You In Mind shows at Shaking the Tree, 823 SE Grant, through Sun March 2, $10-$45 tickets here, 90 minutes without intermission, ghosts