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Review: Mary Moody Northen Theatre’s “Love and Information”

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

(This review is by American-Statesman freelance writer Claire Canavan)

In the modern world, information flows freely and it’s easy to get swept up in the current.

In “Love and Information,” British playwright Caryl Churchill explores the ways relationships function (or don’t) within the fragmented nature of contemporary life. David M. Long directs the play’s regional premiere at St. Edward’s University, now running through October 5.

Jeopardy-style trivia questions greet the audience before the show begins, but soon the questions scroll across the screens so quickly they become a blur of nonsense. The actors emerge for a wild opening dance number featuring neon hula-hoops and a song about DNA. The show then abruptly shifts into realism, with a short but punchy scene about a couple with a secret.

These tonal shifts — from the surreal to the familiar — are a signature of Churchill’s work, and part of the fun of the show. Like many of her other plays, “Love and Information” does not rely on a linear plot. The show unfurls as a series of over fifty different vignettes, some almost overlapping, that show us slices of present-day life.

A woman on vacation in a remote location worries about her inability to access the Internet. A group of friends watch a wedding video and lament that they can’t remember anything from that day that wasn’t recorded. A couple fears climate change but is paralyzed by inaction. Some scenarios are poignant, some are funny, and others are downright bizarre, but they are all held together by Churchill’s snappy dialogue.

Under Long’s direction, the fast pace never lets up, and the staging is dynamic and physical. The actors are constantly in motion. Veteran actors Janelle Buchanan and Rick Roemer ground their scenes with the weight of experience, while the student cast members bring an infectious energy to each scenario.

The structure of “Love and Information” reinforces the content. The characters struggle to process information much in the same way the audience must absorb the fragmented style of the show. The randomness of the way the scenes unfold mimics the disjointed nature of web surfing. It is an of-the-moment piece that mixes social commentary with old-fashioned human relationships. It is a whirlwind, and one well-worth getting swept up by.

 “Love and Information” continues through October 5, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Mary Moody Northen Theatre, 3001 S. Congress Ave.  $8-$22.