Love and Information will stick with you long after the curtain falls. Caryl Churchill’s latest work is sometimes cold, occasionally intimate, mostly aloof, but always engaging as she holds a mirror to our disjointed and disconnected selves. After a 2012 run at London’s Royal Court Theatre, this intellectual view of modern day life is making its’ U.S. debut at the Minetta Lane theatre. American audiences have cause to rejoice.
As a longtime lover of all things theatre, I am somewhat reluctant to admit that this is the first exposure I have had to Churchill’s writing. I’ve known about her work (specifically Top Girls and Cloud 9) but have never read nor seen them in performance. Churchill is mostly known for her avant-garde style and for her themes of feminism, gender, and sexuality. All of these are explored here, but her scope has been widened to an entire society. It’s an awful lot to cram into a night at the theatre , and yet the brevity of scenes and constant visual shifts help magnify our own introspection by causing re-evaluation of our relationships to each other and ourselves.
Love and Information packs 50 plus scenes into two hours, each performed by an accomplished cast of 15 actors who portray multiple characters. Each scene lasts no more than two minutes and is flanked by jarring cacophonous sound effects and blinding white light (hugely effective sound and lighting design by Christopher Shutt and Peter Mumford). All of the scenes stand alone and are unrelated to the next, and yet the beauty here is that we find snippets of ourselves in each of the characters. How often we have felt uncomfortable and restless because we have no cell phone reception. No newspaper. No radio. No computer . In a scene titled “Remote”, a lesbian couple is making the most of their current location-a nameless, desolate area void of technology. “Don’t you sometimes want a weather forecast,” impatiently asks one partner. “You’ll find you can feel if it’s raining” replies her girlfriend.
In “Linguist”, an affluent English speaker is impressed by her waiter’s multi-lingual ability. He is able to recite the word for table in a variety of languages. “That’s so fantastic,” she muses. “Tabulka. Meza. They all mean ‘table’.” “They all mean the same thing as each other”, he explains. With oblivion, she insists, “I can’t help feeling it actually is a table.” The point here is that we are right; that our interpretation is the truth. It echoes the oft quoted line from the Talmud, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” It is truly impressive how creatively this point is outlined in a single moment. It is equally embarrassing to know that it is often our own worldview.
Basically, Churchill is saving us a visit to our shrinks by demonstrating our need for human interaction over technology. It’s not a terribly fresh idea given the numerous essays, articles, and recent themes in our media. Yet as our addled minds impatiently are drawn to the phones in our pockets before we’ve even left the theater, it is a crucial reminder that our iPhones won’t save us; we need meaning between the noise. Thank you for reinforcing that point, Ms. Churchill. And thank you, James MacDonald, for your keen direction.
Love and Information. Now playing through March 23rd at the Minneta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane (just east of 6th avenue). For tickets, call 800-982-2787, visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/Love-and-Information-tickets/artist/1935640, or visit the box office