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Reviewed by:
  • Love and Information by Caryl Churchill
  • Elin Diamond
LOVE AND INFORMATION. By Caryl Churchill. Directed by James Macdonald. New York Theatre Workshop at the Minetta Lane Theatre, New York City. 8 February and 16 March 2014.

Some compare the stage-sized white cube framed by intense blue LED lights to a camera shutter opening and closing. Some compare the mini-scenarios [End Page 462] inside the cube lasting from only a few seconds to five minutes to the dramatic equivalent of an insta-gram. You see it, cognize it, and it is gone. “Perfect for an attention-challenged generation,” the young woman next to me whispered. Love and Information, Caryl Churchill’s most recent innovative encounter with contemporary reality, takes the emotional temperature of information overload and asks how we live and love among the sound bites. Flickering on and off are fifty-seven small scenarios enacted by fifteen multiracial actors ranging from oldsters to the quite young who inhabit over a hundred distinct characters, each in spare, mostly two-person scenes. No one enters or exits. Lights come up, an action progresses to an inconclusive, sometimes comical end, then go off. Churchill requests that the sections be played in order, although the order can vary within sections, and “random” elements listed at the end of the play can drop into any section. In effect, Churchill turns theatre spectators into channel-surfing nomads fingering their remotes, grokking just enough to get a drift of an ongoing story before moving on—except that we do not choose the channels or the time spent on each. The remote, so to speak, is in the hands of the playwright and her director James Macdonald, brilliantly assisted by Miriam Buether (set design), Christopher Shutt (sound composition), and Peter Mumford (lighting). As the dramaticules zip past, as the meanings around love and information aggregate, we start to feel not a through line but a mood, a microclimate of emotion and experiment.

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Susannah Flood and Nate Miller in Love and Information.

(Photo: Joan Marcus.)

The playful prompt to experiment lies in the title. New materialists remind us of our DNA code and the biological and cybernetic systems in which we are embedded. We “appear” in these systems as bits of information via algorithms that register our “presence” on websites, at work, at the doctor’s office, at home. Twenty-four/seven consumers, we input information, output information, and are processed, tracked, and networked at every point of purchase. Intrigued by vast data networks, Churchill reminds us that information percolates everywhere—in secrets between lovers; in knowledge gleaned from slicing open a chick’s brain; in the perceptions of a boy whose missed neuronal connections prevent him from feeling pain; in a personal list that helps a young museum-worker decide whether to leave his adopted country; in ludic dream-interpretation by two would-be lovers as they dress up as clowns; or, as in the last scene, in a catechism of random factoids that passes as intimate conversation. Sometimes, as in Churchill’s Far Away, bad weather is information. By contrast, love, which gets top billing in the title, is not about being networked, but about feeling a network forming, making, and sustaining connection in ordinary life. Or maybe it is about wild desire, or the ache of beauty, or a passion that eludes translation. Or maybe love is just more information. [End Page 463]

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Maria Tucci and John Procaccino in Love and Information.

(Photo: Joan Marcus.)

[End Page 464]

For Churchill and Macdonald, what there is of love resides in a minimal exchange of words. In Churchill’s beautifully wrought text, lines are unattributed, each scene flagged with a title. In performance, these titles were replaced by a full-out situation, built with realist props and markers (bench, double bed, beach blanket, bowl of green beans, piano, desk, and so on). Relationships were instantly telegraphed among peers, colleagues, friends, lovers, family, and acquaintances of every age group. These objects and people provided context and logic to Churchill’s verbal fragments—at times, too blatantly. A long scene about a...


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