Love and Information Review - Churchill's Latest Masterpiece Executed Masterfully

 

Raymond Fox and Emjoy Gavino in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

Remy Bumppo Theatre Company opens its nineteenth season with the Midwest premiere of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, a collection of vignettes exploring the effects of seeking and finding information in the modern age. Elegant and thought-provoking, this show presents its audience with cleanly constructed puzzle pieces and leaves them to put the pieces together themselves.

 

Emjoy Gavino and Penelope Walker in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

The first striking element of the production is the set. Rows and rows of white boxes, indistinguishable from one another except for the plain black numbers marking them, line warehouse-style shelves throughout the stage. Already the tone is set for the play: simple, yet intriguing; divided into discrete parts that nevertheless form a unified whole. An opening sequence featuring all ten actors moving about the stage opening boxes feels rather like a choreographed dance and immediately demonstrates director Shawn Douglass’ eye for strong stage pictures and elegantly orchestrated movement. Vibrant sound design and original music by Rick Sims is an integral part of the storytelling as well, often becoming inseparable from the action onstage and contributing greatly to the meaning of scenes and moments.

 

Penelope Walker and David Darlow in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

The script of Love and Information features no character descriptions, so it is up to the director to choose the race, age, and gender of the actors, and Douglass chose wisely. Featuring an even split between men and women of a multitude of races and ages, Love and Information both proclaims the universality of its topic by featuring a representative cross-section of the population and breaks free of the exhausting white maleness of far too much contemporary theatre. Combinations of actors take on different meanings in this context as well; couples with significant age gaps, queer couples, and mixed-race couples take the stage in different vignettes, adding new elements into the existing mix of text and action that make the play even more interesting to watch. This is without even mentioning the strength of the ensemble itself; each of the ten actors handled the Herculean task of portraying so many distinct characters truthfully with boldness and grace, making it possible to remain invested in characters who, at most, exist for only a few minutes of stage time.

 

Linda Gillum in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

Featuring over a hundred scenes and no repeating characters, Love and Information is a flurry of action without a specific rhythm; some scenes last several minutes, while others last only seconds, and all this activity mirrors the subject matter at hand—information. Just as our brains are constantly process bits and pieces of the world around us, the play presents us with small scenes and stories that are constantly flowing one into the next, with some connections clearly visible and others more obscure. Still, Churchill’s masterful use of language ensures that each short scene contains a world within itself, and even as the text is fragmented, each moment feels whole and so too does the play altogether.

 

Gregory Fenner and Jennifer Glasse in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

Most contemporary plays aim to leave the audience thinking and asking questions long after the show is over; Love and Information actually accomplishes it. The effects of information and technology on our ability to connect with one another is a topic that is often explored but on which light is rarely shed, with most analyses presented in a heavy-handed and often curmudgeonly way, but Churchill finds new ways to juxtapose elements of conversation and interaction that genuinely raise questions and generate insight.

 

Mary Poole and Andrez Enriquez in Love and Information. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

 

Love and Information is, in no uncertain terms, brilliant. Incredible writing by Caryl Churchill is matched by a smart, innovative production bolstered by strong acting work, well-executed design, and outstanding direction. Remy Bumppo has created something amazing.

 

Ticket Information

Dates: September 24, 2015-November 1, 2015

Times: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm; Sundays at 2:30pm; Wednesdays, October 7 and 28 at 7:30pm

Matinee Performances (other than Sundays): October 17 and 22 at 2:30pm

Location: Greenhouse Theater Center, Theater 3

2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

Tickets: Greenhouse Theater Center Box Office, 773.404.7336 or online at the Remy Bumppo website

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