This weekend’s Westmont play was a collage of self-contained clips whose narratives swung from comedy, to grief, to joy, and back again, while tied together by a series of subtly choreographed interludes. “Love and Information” began as a startling series of micro-plots that soon came to reveal themselves as a singular growing catalogue of modernity’s conspiracies and circumstances, having the thematic effect of a complex traditional story structure. The nameless characters began to seem familiar to the audience, reminding them of their own social circumstances. Actor Ashley Vanyo recognized that because of its context and plot, “people will experience the play differently depending on their place in life.”
Writer Caryl Churchill and director Nita June forced watchers to evaluate the collection of shorts as the realities of the present day.
Actor Sam Stroming spoke about the play’s message, saying that therein lies an extra pressure to act the parts well, because they are representing real states of modern life.
The audience sat on an island in the middle of the stage, as the “kaleidoscopic” scenes revealed themselves. A young man falls in love with a virtual woman, a woman grieves the loss of a loved one, and a couple of friends discuss what it means to have free will.
The segments physically darted around the stage, as one scene would dim and as another sprang up from the opposite side. Projectors were positioned on the left and right, acting as single color or photo backdrops, or showing an actor involved in a particular scene. There were entire scenes that had been previously filmed and then projected to the audience, without the actors being present on the stage: two government agents discussing the questioning of a potential witness, a teenager haunted by an alter ego, and an elementary school teacher telling her class a story.
Three abstract interludes structured the scenes, each serving as a deconstructed study of human disconnection. While the rest of the play mainly had actors relating to each other, the first interlude was odd because the actors walked around without acknowledging one another, even as they were in such close proximity. By the last interlude, the mood became emotionally charged as the actors became stuck leaning and reaching for each other, without being able to successfully make contact.
By the time the show ended, the audience was left with questions unanswered and even a touch of confusion, only sure that what they had just witnessed was not an attempt at a fully comprehensive start-to-finish narrative, but an expression of today’s convoluted world. When a man ran on stage and screamed “Does anyone speak my language?” in pig Latin, one was made to wonder if people will drift further away from caring and understanding about the other, especially if the person is different than them.
Is this world one where no one can find another to confide in? The shifting multimedia play kept the audience thoroughly surprised in the same way they might while flipping through their phones; even the architecture of the plot was brought forth in the same “kaleidoscopic” process that digital information is transmitted to viewers today.
Fundamentally, Churchill and June seemed to be interested in the same problem; they worry and wonder about where modern progression is converging. They are alarmed at the thought of a future where humans isolate themselves in loneliness and settle for virtual platforms to perform a shallow script of simulated human relationship.
And the production’s construction was eerily accurate, as Landon Moir added regarding the process of his role, “I didn’t have to become someone else, I just had to embrace certain parts of myself.”