Review: Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” at NYTW
At 75 years old, British dramatist Caryl Churchill—one of the world’s premier influential voices in theater—has made a career out of crafting stories with an embarrassment of riches. This was made quite evident as she returned for her seventh American premiere at New York Theatre Workshop with the aptly titled Love and Information at the Minetta Lane Theatre, produced in association with London’s Royal Court Theatre.
But unlike Churchill’s 2002 sci-fi human cloning epic A Number, Love and Information is a night out on the town that never quite leaves the couch. It doesn’t have the vitality of her iconic 1982 play Top Girls, which is as much of a feminist theatrical gem as it is a course on sexual politics and the exploration of abuses of power in the corporate world. Love and Information, a laundry list of vignettes cut into seven parts with an epilogue, may mystify those looking for rollicking entertainment while entrancing those expecting a run-of-the-mill production.
At the top of the show, the exterior of a pitch-dark stage is lined in colored glowing light, forming a perfect square, seeming to box in the action of the scenes to come. In rapid fire, the audience is introduced to over a hundred different characters, all of which are trying to figure out the riddle of life.
With linguistic gen, Churchill showcases she is a rare talent when it comes to prose and broadcasting a variety of fun and refreshing situations. Each story is more provoking than the last: The conversation between two mature ladies discussing suicide bombers over cocktails; a lesbian couple relocating to the mountains to enjoy silence in the midst of the surge of social media and e-news; a young motor mouth lab physician talking about the dissection of chicken brains and their memories over a romantic first date picnic; and two clowns seducing one another while one talks about their partner’s recent infidelity.
Churchill brings the point home with the epilogue, showcasing a young lady cramming for a “Jeopardy!”-style quiz show, cruising through all of the inquiries, but hesitating to say ‘those three little words’ to her beau. With the advent of the Internet and information at our fingertips, people have become so numb and desensitized to the profusion of facts and information that as a civilization, we are lacking the obligatory skills for human interaction and feelings.
The play showcases an aspired tribe of thespians, like the astute Jennifer Ikeda who helped anchored the scenes, the soulful thousand-eyed stare of Susannah Flood, and the tapestry of emotion drawn across the lines of powerhouse Randy Danson’s face. But perhaps the most surprising was that of Noah Galvin, who amped the energy of each scene with authority and world-class meticulousness, and Adante Power who showed a sincerity that stood out from the more presentational performances.
Yet over the two hours, one must question if this were a production that needed to be staged or left as source material in a collection of short stories. The real rock star behind the production—scenic designer Miriam Buether—created an inspired and almost cinematic white pin-striped set and pulled off some neat tricks in the claustrophobic cube on stage, wowing audiences with its hot air balloon inspired textures while crash-landing different worlds into the space at break-neck speed. Within moments, an amnesiac recited from a live and tuned grand piano, a couple fought insomnia from their queen sized bed, two boys stargazed on a patch of grass in their backyard, and a young woman revealed a family secret to her adopted brother on their worn-out couch.
With all of these set changes within the small box, sensory overload was induced, as the mounting information skewed the message of the piece. Perhaps this was Churchill’s intention, but many of the vignettes felt overwhelming at times. In terms of message, the sum of the parts didn’t equal the pearls of wisdom Mrs. Churchill tried to express over the course of the seven acts. Perhaps an up-and-coming filmmaker may get his or her hands on the source material—and what a film that might be.
Love and Information
New York Theatre Workshop in association with the Royal Court Theatre
Minetta Lane Theater, 18-22 Minetta Lane
Through March 23
Marcus Scott, an MFA graduate of NYU Tisch, is a playwright, musical theater writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Elle, Out, Essence, Uptown, Trace, Giant, Hello Beautiful and Edge Media Network.