Caryl Churchill’s play about the information age is a little too ADD for its own good
British playwright Caryl Churchill made a career out of tireless experimentation. Whereas many playwrights might have noticeably softened after the audacious formal gambits that define early-’80s plays Top Girls and Cloud 9, her 2012 play Love and Information finds Churchill as restless as ever. The play chronicles human connection in the age of information and contains a whopping 57 scenes. Some are only a single line long, and the longest of them are not long at all. It’s theater as Snapchat.
Under director Shawn Douglass, Remy Bumppo's Midwest premiere employs 10 actors to portray a wide array of characters: lovers, families, friends, co-workers and strangers. These people are constantly begging, wheedling, grasping for knowledge or the upper hand. They are remembering or mis-remembering or outsourcing their memory altogether. They pontificate on mathematics and the stars and the human genome. And, of course, they gossip.
The main issue at hand is that the play’s quick-strike form makes it hard for the performers to burrow down into any one character. Comedy works better in short format than tragedy, so Douglass and his cast often go for the easy laugh. The stark, gorgeous set by Jacqueline and Richard Penrod stacks white file boxes to evoke a server-farm-like world, but Rick Sims's sound design leans too much on bland, futuristic synths.
Churchill’s experiment here is a mixed bag. The play’s deliberately-ADHD nature is thrillingly familiar, but in a production like this it overwhelms the actual material. In this case, Snapchat might be best left on our phones.
Remy Bummpo Theatre Company at Greenhouse Theater Center. By Caryl Churchill. Directed by Shawn Douglass. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40 min; No intermission.