Monday, February 2, 2015

"Love and Information" by Frank Theatre at the Ritz Theater

I admit it, I'm an eavesdropper. I love listening to other people's conversations when I'm out in a public place. But that's not really eavesdropping; what am I supposed to do, plug my ears when someone is having a conversation at the table next to me?  I'm just being observant. Or you could say, gathering information. Frank Theatre's production of Caryl Churchill's new play Love and Information is a lot like eavesdropping on conversations around you. You don't get the full story, it might be cut off before you want it to, or it might drone on and on as you wish it would stop. An ensemble of 14 actors performs over 50 short scenes in about 90 minutes, each with different characters in different situations, but all revolving around the theme of how we gather, receive, share, and process information. It's a truly unique experience at the theater, and one that's quite fascinating and thought-provoking.

This is where I usually do a brief plot summary, but there is no plot in this play. Scenes range from a few seconds to several minutes in length, and typically involve just a few people. They may be full conversations, or more often just fragments of a conversation, or fragments of a sentence even, that show us just a fragment of these characters lives. Some don't make any sense, some are so compelling I'd like to see them expanded into an entire play. Scenes take place in a shoe store, a beauty parlor, a dinner party, a prison, a restaurant, a bedroom, or in the great outdoors. Set pieces are moved on and off the stage relatively quickly during the frequent scene stages, while eclectic music plays.

the cast of Love and Information
The script comes with no character or set descriptions, and even the order of the scenes is somewhat loose. Director Wendy Knox and this fantastic cast, each of whom bring something uniquely interesting to the piece, have done a wonderful job constructing the piece and making it endlessly surprising, perplexing, and fascinating. And kudos to Kathy Kohl for designing the many many costumes to help define the characters that we may only see for a few seconds, and to the actors for the many many costume changes required. The whole thing demands precise choreography both onstage and off, and they pull it off without a hitch.

We live in the information age. We have endless amounts of information literally at our fingertips. People share some of their most personal and intimate information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever the kids are using these days. But what do we do with that information once we have it? Does it make us happier? Does it make our lives better? These are some of the questions this piece raises, in a fresh and modern way that's perfectly suited to this age of short attention spans. Love and Information continues at the Ritz Theater through February 22.