Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” is a non-linear, non-narrative play consisting of over 50 short scenes loosely divided into seven segments. In the Capital Stage production, skillfully directed by Benjamin T. Ismail, the conceit of the play’s structure is a perfect match for the intimate feel of the theater.
Each of the scenes, to a greater or lesser extent, presents a snapshot of a relationship or of a very personal emotion experienced by a single character. In a sense, the scenes are trivial, but in another they are momentous, signifying something deeper about the human experience. To describe any of them in detail risks destroying the impact of seeing them performed. We’ll let a few examples suffice. In a couple of very short scenes interspersed in the play, one character faces away (back to the audience); another character enters at the edge of the stage and at a distance from the first. The second character either says nothing or asks, “Can I …?” The scene ends without a reply or acknowledgement from the first.
In another slightly longer scene, a man and woman disagree about whether one has told the other about a dinner they had planned to have with another couple. The disagreement has the potential to escalate into one of those silly arguments endemic to almost every intimate relationship, but this time one of the two apologizes and the scene ends. In yet another, two people are contemplating whether God gets depressed. They don’t reach an agreement on the subject, and the discussion ends when one tells the other that he is “really annoying.”
Taken together the scenes suggest a disconnect in modern life of people from each other and of individuals from their real feelings. The moments in time that the scenes capture can be seen as representative of how quickly we move from one experience, one encounter, one moment, to the next, often without allowing ourselves the opportunity to consider how each of those experiences, encounters, moments, have affected us. In that sense, Ms. Churchill is presenting an existential perspective on the current state of the human condition in which intimacy is sacrificed in favor of text messages. If that thought isn’t profound (the more jaded perspective would be that it isn’t), the presentation of it is, in the end, powerful.
The play calls for an ensemble of actors so as to avoid having any single actor associated with any single character (even though no character appears in more than scene). For the Cap Stage production eleven cast members play the over one hundred characters. All eleven are excellent. We were most impressed with Eric Baldwin, Jouni Kirjola, Tiffanie Mack, Matt K. Miller, and Emilie Talbot. The rest of the solid cast consisted of Rob August, Gail Dartez, Kristine Elizabeth David, Jacob Garcia, Laura Kaye and Alexander Martinez. The sparse scenic design (appropriate to the play’s constantly changing scenes) was credited to Brian Watson. Ed Lee provided the sound design, Steve Decker the lighting, and Rachel Malin the costumes.
“Love and Information” won’t satisfy those expecting a clearly developed plot with either a lot of action or in-depth character studies. To state the obvious, it isn’t intended to provide that kind of theatrical experience. What it offers instead, is a succession of vignettes that hint at deeper stories and more complete characters. Some of those vignettes won’t seem to mean much. Others beg to be extended to reveal more. In sum, they provide a reflection of the lives most of us, either by choice or by circumstance, are living in this new millennial information age.
We were entertained, moved, and shaken by the totality of the experience.
Performances of “Love and Information” continue at Capital Stage through February 28. Tickets and information are available at the box office (2215 J Street), by phone (916-995-5464) and online (capstage.org).