BWW Reviews: Live From New York, It's LOVE AND INFORMATION
Perhaps, on some level best discovered through a thorough analysis of the text, Caryl Churchill's latest contains some meaningful substance. But theatre demands communication that can be appreciated within the course of a performance and despite director James MacDonald's fine production and, quite frankly, some interesting and lively writing, Love and Information appears to contain as much substance as two hours worth of sketches from the last ten minutes of Saturday Night Live.
The evening is sabotaged by a concept that asks the audience to endure 50 questionably related scenes (and as many as 15 optional random scenes) played by over twice as many characters. The lengthiest seem to last only a few minutes and some are as short as one sentence.
Someone's looking at a snail, a child refuses to say he's sorry, somebody tells someone a secret, a woman tells another woman that a dress looks good on her, someone can't fall asleep, a patient asks a doctor how much time she has to live, an employee complains about the way he was fired, someone demonstrates how he can remember every detail of his life, someone plays a piano and so on and so on and so on.
In nearly every case, a scene's premise is barely established before the lights go out and it's on to the next one. A few exceptions actually are interesting, like one where a young girl tries to describe pain to a young boy who cannot physically feel it and another where a woman on a picnic tells her date about her job in a lab that performs experiments on chickens. The title of the play comes from a quick conversation regarding sex and the gene pool.
Though the scenes all have titles in the written script, audience members are never made aware of them. They do however see projected numbers that divide the scenes into sections. Churchill's notes say that the scenes within each section may be played in any order, but the sections themselves must remain sequential. The random scenes may happen at any time. The audience is never made aware of this structure.
The audience is also never made aware that Churchill rarely designates settings or character descriptions - not even genders - leading one to assume that MacDonald was given a great deal of interpretive freedom.
The fifteen member ensemble - Irene Sofia Lucio, Noah Galvin, Karen Kandel, Andante Power, Zoë Winters, James Waterston, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Maria Tucci, John Procaccino, Phillip James Brannon, Jennifer Ikeda, Susannah Flood, Nate Miller, Randy Danson and Kellie Overbey - dives in with energy and polish but nobody is given anything to do that requires a serious amount of acting skill.
The stars of the show turn out to be set designer Miriam Buether and lighting designer Peter Mumford. The entire evening is played on a cubed stage with a graph paper design on five sides. There's a black scrim separating the audience from the playing space and no visible path for the actors to get on and off. Each scene ends with a stage-masking blackout, accompanied by Christopher Shutt's assorted sound designs, and within seconds there are new actors and set pieces ready to go as the lights flash up.
Once the monotonous rhythm of the evening sets in, the most entertaining parts of Love and Information are the quick moments of surprise when the lights suddenly reveal sights like two disheveled Elvis impersonators or a sky view of two boys lying on the ground, requiring one of the actors to play his entire scene upside down.