With a title like Love and Information, Forum Theatre’s newest show grants itself a wide warrant, delivering quite a bit of the former and volley after volley of the latter. The show really gets fun when you follow along with the meta-theatrical game Forum plays with the playwright, but whether there’s more than just a game here is hit and miss.
Playwright Caryl Churchill ironically provides as little information as possible. Churchill rarely so much as implies a setting in the show’s 70 vignettes. None of the characters are named (With the sole exception of a Mr. Bradshaw, which distracted me to no end, but that’s just me). In fact, she doesn’t even give lines to certain characters, leaving director Michael Dove free to distribute them to as many characters in a scene as he sees fit.
Though, it’s wrong to see this as just Dove’s decision. Jon Jon Johnson got to interview assistant director Rebecca Wahls and actors Edward Christian, Lillian Oben, Samy El-Noury, Shpend Xani, and Emily Whitworth on the process. Cast members took the role of “scenerunners,” devising new interpretations for a scene, casting it, rehearsing, and presenting to the rest of the team. Almost every scene saw multiple iterations, some with different scenerunners at the helm at different times.
The cast clearly has more fun with some scenes than others, but for every one scene that’s just a couple of nondescript people sitting in nondescript chairs, there are three that truly play with the form. Lines that could easily be split between two characters sometimes get three or more, bringing several perspectives to the conversation. Added pressure from characters having dinner with their girlfriend’s family or trying to keep quiet in an office bring new tension to already tight writing. Elegant sets, costumes, and props (Andrew Cohen, Frank Labovitz, and Patrick Kavanaugh, respectively) bring a rush of clever context to many of the scenes, even as settings and characters shoot by, some in as little as a single line.
The Silver Spring Black Box’s traverse stage is an especially good fit for this show. Watching the other half of the audience watch the show from the far side of the stage is a clear invitation to put yourself in the creative team’s shoes and consider how much information is getting to the crowd.
Certainly, we know a lot less about these characters than we would in a more traditional show. Some just serve as mannequins for outrageous costumes that turn a few of Churchill’s one-line vignettes into gags. Funny, but calling into question how many of these staccato stories could hold up to a longer treatment. Definitely not the thousand-thousandth time someone has bemoaned how hard it is to get off your smartphone and just disconnect.
Love and Information
closes October 19, 2017
Details and tickets
If you attend on the right night and manage to snag a ticket, Love and Information is paired with Bodies of Data, a piece of one-on-one participatory theatre in the same vein as The Tarot Reading. Gwydion Suilebhan invites one audience member at a time to join him in a makeshift therapist’s office on the second floor of the theater.
He tells the story of his body’s flaws before guiding the conversation to a survey about how you view your own body. It is revelatory, and I am still mulling over my answers several days later. While Churchill mostly just asks the audience to hold on and enjoy the ride, I undoubtedly came away from Bodies of Data with more than when I arrived.
Love and Information. Written by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Michael Dove. Performed by Kathleen Akerley, Moriamo Akibu, Edward Christian, Samy El-Noury, Megan Graves, Laura C. Harris, Nanna Ingvarsson, Jade Jones, Ahmad Kamal, Lilian Oben, Jared Shamberger, Ryan Tumulty, Emily Whitworth, Shpend Xani. Assistant directed by Sara Dabney Tisdale and Rebecca Wahls. Set design by Andrew Cohen. Lighting design by Billy D’Eugenio. Costume design by Frank Labovitz. Sound design by Roc Lee. Properties design by Patrick Kavanaugh. Projection design by Patrick Lord. Stage managed by Jenny Rubin. Produced by Forum Theatre. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.
Bodies of Data, written and performed by Gwydion Suilebhan will be presented before the feature Love and Information on the following nights: October 4, 7, 8, 12, 16, & 21.