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Some play scripts are tightly bound, while others exist as a pile of pages. Playwrights tend to look at their job as moving from the latter to the former, taking a loose set of scenes and working on them until they arrive at a definitive sequence representing the author’s final intention.
Caryl Churchill is not that kind of playwright. In Love and Information, which will be performed at Westmont College in the Black Box at Porter Hall January 30 through February 2, Churchill challenges the whole idea of authorial intention with a characteristically inventive concept in regard to sequence. The play’s built of seven big segments, and the playwright specifies that these seven chunks must be played in strict order. But each of the seven fixed segments contains a multitude of short scenes, or “mini-plots,” and directors are instructed to experiment freely with how those are sequenced within the larger units.
But wait, there’s more. Churchill also provides a grab bag of extra mini-plots at the end, and those are designated wild cards, eligible to be played at any time. Does this sound like a director’s nightmare? Not to Nita June, the talented woman behind DogStar Theater Company, who has been chosen to direct Love and Information by the formidable team at Westmont College’s theater program. Speaking with her last week, I learned that for the Westmont drama students who will each play between 10 and 12 roles in this production, the fuzzy logic of the show resembles a key experience in their daily lives — the random walk of scrolling through a social media feed.
Reading Love and Information reveals Churchill’s writing at its finest. The play, which premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2012, deftly combines the poignant intimacy of Samuel Beckett with an ironic approach to such contemporary phenomena as extreme weather that would make Bertolt Brecht proud. In one exchange, two anonymous characters (did I mention that the more than 100 characters are all anonymous?) react to an earthquake and subsequent tsunami. After exploring their relative reactions for a bit, the dialogue ends with the following exchange:
And imagine the wave coming, imagine hearing it coming and running away and you can’t get away, it came fast did you see how fast it came?
Yes, I saw it.
You’re not upset though.
That black wave with the cars in it was awesome.
If that all sounds just too awful, especially in these difficult times, consider this appeal from the director, who said that the show’s continuity comes from the way it presents “a broad spectrum of what it means to be human, snippets of life that we can all relate to.” The intent, according to June, is to “leave the audience wanting to connect with others,” both more aware of life’s myriad missed opportunities, and “more grateful and in the moment” when they leave the theater.
The show runs one hour and 45 minutes without intermission. The audience sits in parallel rows facing in opposite directions, with both live camera work and prerecorded video scenes supplementing what’s happening on either side of the space. There will be choreographed interstitials with music, and the whole thing will undoubtedly radiate the Westmont theater program’s enormous sincerity and commitment to the art form. If you are ready to see 10 actors play 120 roles in less than two hours, then Love and Information is for you. And if you love great writing for the theater, you won’t want to miss it.
4•1•1 | Love and Information plays Thu., Jan. 30, to Sun., Feb. 2 at Westmont College in the Black Box at Porter Hall. All shows are at 7:30pm. See westmont.edu/boxoffice.