LOVE AND INFORMATION
March 1, 2014
If you happen to be at the Minetta Lane Theatre any time between now and March 23rd, prepare to be met by a large, neon blue square. Savor the time you have with this abstract stillness, for once it departs, a theatrical triathlon ensues, coached by James MacDonald, that is Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, filling two uninterrupted hours at a continually nimble pace, tackling infinite situations like a glutton at an all-you-can-eat buffet consisting of fifty-seven entrees made with only fifteen ingredients.
The play’s form reflects through stark contrast what is consuming its hundreds of characters – their knowledge, how they know, who else knows it, and if they ever wanted to find out. Vignettes are divided cleanly into movements like an orchestral suite, preceded by a projected number. Beginning with harmless nosiness, later episodes ponder our capacity for self-delusion and knowledge we need yet avoid out of discomfort, escalating in situational gravity. The structure is a well-kept file cabinet, providing a sterile neutralization to emotional extremity.
The content is less generous in how it divulges information. Churchill’s writing is astutely aware that an audience is present. A man is desperate to know his companion’s secret. After much build up, she whispers it to him, leaving us with his baffled reaction. Some vignettes end before we can discern a plausible relationship between characters, multiple possibilities exposing interconnectivity between personal matters. Other times, expectation is set up and dashed at the last minute, aware of social convention. A white male yells at a black female that she can’t fire people by e-mail as a boss might approach his office administrator, yet it was she who was the boss, and he who had just been fired.
Complementary to Churchill’s epistemological playground is Miriam Buether’s setwork. Each scene takes place in a cube with graph paper walls, signaling potential for data representation, reminiscent of those pesky math problems culminating in either none or more than one solution – ambivalence’s presence in the seemingly absolute. She jarringly alters perspective, positioning a bed and a stretch of lawn vertically as if onlookers were floating above them.
Even the program seems thematic in how it reveals information theatre-goers may take for granted. There are no headshots; due to the multitude of characters, each actor is credited simply as “actor.” Actor and character alike could have been anyone. Despite this democratization, it’s difficult not to be particularly beguiled by Susannah Flood’s electrical voice or Karen Kandel’s prickly affectations.
Newly produced by the New York Theatre Workshop following a 2012 premier in London, Love and Information feels at home on Minetta Lane, but, more importantly, has the potential to feel at home wherever it may go.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews