Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information is a solid one-hour play that happens to run for a little under two hours. Its fifty-seven scenes are connected thematically and not narratively, featuring over one hundred characters who are all struggling with the same problem: deciding how to communicate, filter, interpret, and trust information—and, often, how that pertains to love. “Is it better to know things or not to know things?” asks a man who is about to tell his friend that her husband is having an affair. While watching a wedding tape, another man, less troubled by this statement when it begins than when it ends, says, “I wouldn’t remember all this without the video. I wouldn’t remember hardly anything at all about it because I can’t remember anything about that day that’s not on the video. Not clearly.” The title really says it all.
Often, these scenes are virtuosic performances of minimalism; in fewer than two minutes, Ms. Churchill has us invested in characters that another writer could use to build an entire play. At its best, it examines extreme people in ordinary moments—like a woman, her face spotted with zit cream, berating her husband in their bathroom for ratting his friend out to the police and thus endangering their lives—or, conversely, ordinary people in extreme moments, like the man at a picnic listening to his date describe how she beheads birds for a living. Relying largely on inference, there is something almost musical about Ms. Churchill’s play, a theatrical Goldberg Variations.
Still, a good third of Love and Information is excess noise, pointless renderings of a theme that would have more power were it not squeezed of all its juice. The cast is excellent across the board (and difficult to discuss individually since each member takes on something like ten to fifteen parts each) and the stage, a blindingly white cube marked up like a grid and evoking middle school math assignments, is forceful in its simplicity. But there is no escaping that Love and Information falls short as a whole, that in slimming down the script its best moments would be magnified and wholly more effective.