Love and Information by Caryl Churchill
Let me just say that if you want to see this odd and excellent production of Love and Information DO NOT purchase seats in audience right or left sections. You won’t sit through this performance comfortably because you will not be able to see the actors without turning your head or leaning over.
The set is an open box roughly 16 feet square lines with giant graph paper. The downstage side is missing but all the others are there. This means you cannot see the actors unless they are down stage center. By and large, this is mostly what happens, but there are plenty of moments where the actors are not exactly centered. The sightlines for 50-100 people are then tossed out the window. I was in one of those seats, and because the play is a non-stop two hours, the numbing effect of the 45 degree angle of my turned head was often at war with these excellent performances and terrific text.
I don’t recall every being angry at a set before. But this one deserves some serious rotten tomatoes. It is insane.
As to the work itself, there is some wonderful insanity going on here. I was reminded of Drunk Enough To Say I Love You in which two characters travel through a relationship – at the time (2008) it was supposed to represent the U.S. and the U.K. Bush and Blair – sort of. Hearts were bared, hopes raised, dreams dared, then dashed, then ransacked. Churchill took us into the jungle that is our own relationships and told us, “This is that of which the world is made. Look to yourselves. Look to ourselves. We are the stuff on which all matter depends.”
In this production Churchill has a similar message in different packaging. This one is all about, as the title says, Love and Information. What do we want to know and why? When do secrets cross the boundary of self-definition and leak into the atmosphere? And how does that change what happens between us all. The scenes are grouped, and each group is numbered – even though it is a ludicrous set there are some spectacular scene changes here – and the genius of Churchill’s writing is that every scene defies sex, race or age.
Each scene is between at least two people, and this spectacular cast catapults from one scene to another without a hitch. They are seamless, and the director, James McDonald, rises to the occasion by lifting this script, which does not assign characters’ any physical attributes, and is pure dialogue, from the page. Each scene blooms. These are the overhead conversations like the ones that appear in the New York Times. Here they have morphed into entire worlds that fly by us, each yelling Look at MEEE!!!
Intelligent people discuss God, rationality, the purpose of life, each other; lovers share themselves. Churchill gives us confrontations, unexpected news, stubborn linguistics, hormones and horrors. People watch and are being watched. It is all us. It is all of this humanity pudding. This is work that could tour the world and be performed in a bazillion languages. Churchill pulls out the navel fuzz of our lives and puts it in a jar on the shelf. We are instantly self-conscious, but we still step in for a closer look. Ever y scene contains a nit that you have picked. Wham-bam, thank you ma’am. You, we, are all over this stage.
When you can actually see the entire scene, of course.
So do yourself a favor and indulge in this bubbling mud bath of life. It is work that makes life expand and you with it.
Just be certain you get seats in the center section.
Love and Information
By Caryl Churchill; directed by James Macdonald; sets by Miriam Buether; costumes by Gabriel Berry and Andrea Hood; lighting by Peter Mumford; sound by Christopher Shutt; production stage manager, Christine Catti. Presented by New York Theater Workshop, James C. Nicola, artistic director; Jeremy Blocker, managing director; Linda S. Chapman, associate artistic director; Larry K. Ash, production manager; in association with the Royal Court Theater. At the Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village; 800-982-2787, nytw.org. Through March 23. Running time: 2 hours.
WITH: Phillip James Brannon, Randy Danson, Susannah Flood, Noah Galvin, Jennifer Ikeda, Karen Kandel, Irene Sofia Lucio, Nate Miller, Kellie Overbey, Adante Power, John Procaccino, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Maria Tucci, James Waterston and Zoë Winters.