We live in a society that seems to be facing an issue that previous generations probably would have never imagined: an overwhelming amount of information. With the internet becoming a central aspect in everyone’s life, the way we interact with one another has become different as well. In the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s production of Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information,” director Gillian Eaton asks the audience, “Can we resist the constant distraction? Is paying attention the most profound expression of love? How much information do we need?” I think the production reflects favorably upon these questions.
One of the unique aspects of “Love and Information” was the lack of characters — or, I guess one could say the abundance of them. Each of these short scenes compares a different set of unnamed characters. For the most part, characters were given very little exposition, and there was very little time to explore the characters, as per the nature of the play. Each of the dozens of characters was distinctly different, and each was portrayed incredibly well by the talented cast.
The performance consisted of dozens of different vignettes, each about one to two minutes long with varying subject matters. Sometimes, these scenes were accompanied by titles projected above the stage which would give the audience insight as to the subject of the different tableaux. One of the first scenes featured two teenagers that seemed to be smoking some sort of substance and filling out their census. If I had not known that the scene was called “Census” I would have just assumed two stoners were talking about nothing and giggling. But because the context was provided by that title, the scene became more focused, and more lighthearted. However, sometimes these titles were vague or just non-existent.
As the show went on, different tones were introduced. There were multiple vignettes that centered around a character lacking the ability to feel some sort of emotion, from grief to pain and everything in between. More than once this was a child of some sort not knowing what it was like to feel a certain way, but also included adults watching television and failing to feel any empathy. I thought this element of emotional analysis was one of the highlights of the performance. Each actor had a tough job to do in conveying the complex emotions of a character that the audience knew nothing about, but I took a lot away from the play’s commentary on human emotions, and how although some of them may seem to be dreadful, they all help shape us to be human.
I was not a huge fan of the usage of cellphones and popular music. Seeing two of the actors recite the entirety of “Man’s Not Hot” by Big Shaq (which I admittedly found pretty impressive) ruined the immersion for me. It felt out of place. Most of these vignettes conveyed emotions and experiences that felt timeless and relatable. I understand that the production was meant to analyze the current age of information, but having modern day songs and phones on stage took away this feeling that these scenes could be applicable to human emotion on a broader scale. The phones didn’t really emerge as a plot device in many of the scenes; they just seemed like they were there, and they were distracting. They felt like a red sock in a load of white shirts.
One of the aspects of the show I enjoyed the most was how love wasn’t always treated in a romantic sense. Sometimes it was a paternal love, or a close friendship. There was a scene where one character argued with another about the legitimacy of an online relationship with some sort of A.I., taking heavy influence from Spike Jonze’s “Her.” This to me was one of the best vignettes that explored the concept of emotion while integrating technology.
“Love and Information” was a really weird play — in a good way. One of my favorite elements about theater is how real character development can feel in a live setting. And despite the premise of this play lacking any sort of character development, I enjoyed it. Even for the two minutes that a reunited couple returned to the stage, I almost felt like I knew every step of their relationship. Topics like memory loss really hit home with me with a family prone to dementia, but before I had a second for that sentimentality to kick in, the next scene would have me laughing out loud. The Department of Theatre & Drama’s production of “Love and Information” wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t want it to be. It was human, and that’s all an audience could have wanted.