The title of British playwright Caryl Churchill’s new play, Love and Information, now at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village, clearly states the play’s subject.
But the play’s context – or rather, many contexts – only become apparent during its rapid succession of vignettes, acted with precision and panache by 15 actors playing multiple roles.
The show clocks in at nearly two hours, but some of the 57 scenes were as short as 10 seconds while others stretched for several minutes. The result, while radically episodic, aims to expand our sense of the great variety of loves, and of the many meanings of information. To the degree it accomplishes that goal, it is due to Churchill’s brisk, tight writing.
Ultimately, the narrative-free play lacked an emotional wallop for me, but the journey was entertaining and well worth taking, and audiences have agreed: The production has earned two extensions, and is currently set to run through April 6.
Staged in an enormous graph-paper box, generally lit a dazzling white but occasionally glowing with moodier hues, the vignettes came at the audience rapid-fire, linked by a series of loud, tech-evocative sounds.
Director James McDonald apparently runs a tight ship. The vignettes appeared as if out of nowhere, set in apartments, on subway platforms, and outdoors, and disappeared nearly as quickly as they came. McDonald’s staging, with expert help from production stage manager Christine Catti, was remarkable for its pace and clarity.
While the scenes usually featured some minimal props – a bench, a vertical bed, a picnic blanket – they were necessarily simple, and the resulting set up and set changes were smooth. The loud interstitial sounds certainly provided some cover, but the sense out front was of a very smooth backstage operation. No set change lasted more than 10-12 seconds.
That staging expertise allowed the 15 actors to transition smoothly between scenes and characters, not one of which appeared in more than one scene.
Exploring not just love and information, but ancillary subjects including, most poignantly, memory and the lack (or confusion) thereof, the actors were mostly fresh and versatile, adopting the subtly different voices and mannerisms with ease and grace.
Churchill writes many lines in which one character cuts off another, and the timing of such lines could have been sharper, thus drawing attention to the script rather than to the emotional content of the scene.
And about two-thirds into the show, there was a marked uptick in the numbers of watch-glances, yawns, and heads craning as minds wandered. Turns out a good through-line is still essential to a two-hour performance, even one with as much good acting, directing and writing as this.
The final ensemble scene made the point most explicitly: A character finally woke up to the blizzard of information coming at her, and seemed to realize that it was blinding her to the presence of love.
It’s not particularly original, but the point is well-taken, and clearly worth revisiting, especially when done so entertainingly: We are so distracted by the bits and shards of information that come at us all day (and night) long that making a substantial connection that feeds us emotionally is not just difficult – it is worth the effort. We just need to stop for a moment and focus on that other person.
Love and Information continues at the Minetta Lane Theater, 17 Minetta Lane, through April 6. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.