Conventionality and expectation are left at coat check and an embracement of absurdity and an adeptness to changing interpretation are collected. An inflatable tube man, a war, marital turmoil, a crocodile, religion. The connecting factor? “Love and Information,” the latest play from CPP’s Department of Theatre and New Dance premiered Oct. 13 to kick off the 2023/2024 season.
A production comprising of 60 scenes all of which did not contribute to the mechanics of a storyline, acted as a mental playground for audience members to grapple with a jungle gym of theories and entertain hypotheses conspired out of imagination.
This story is not a story, rather, a telling of the human condition in its rawest form: fortuity versus design.
Prefaced with no synopsis on the internet or the program, the audience is left ill-equipped. But playwright Carol Churchill thought otherwise. Written in the pinnacle of information overload, this 2012 play depicts the relationships, and lack thereof, in the contemporary world.
“What the play feels like, is like scrolling through social media where you get these short, intense experiences,” said director Sara Lyons. “What does it do to our brains in an over-stimulating space all the time? How do we figure out how to get our basic human needs met?”
A deluge of scenes portraying the influx of pleasure associated with and the consequence of the lack of authentic connection and the path for it is one of the story’s many interpretations.
Delving into those experiences are issues that dwell within society but are oftentimes overlooked, as Churchill notices.
“This, I believe, is the culmination of all that,” said Jay Jay Castro, an ensemble member from the cast. “I believe ‘Love and Information’ is a show that touches on so many different hard-hitting topics that we don’t talk about. We see them, but we ignore them. This show, lack of better term, exposes them. It forces the audience to confront it.”
The play is written in seven sections, each consisting of a number of scenes, ranging from less than a minute to a few minutes long. The director holds creative freedom in ordering scenes in each section with 100 characters living within the play all unnamed, double cast and ungendered.
Set and costume design followed a minimal palette, exhibiting shades of white and minor technical intricacies in props and wardrobe and inviting an allowance of an enigmatic plot without overwhelming the audience.
Although, a lesser mystery is found within the characters. The characters are unrelated in each scene, with no character arc to support a common path. Though disparate, a connection to them is apparent.
“They aren’t characters,” said Castro. “They’re genuine, real-life people who experience thoughts and emotions who live their life in their own way.”
Each scene can be considered as a piece of glass making up a “fast-moving kaleidoscope” which the audience member is looking through, according to the brief summary provided on the department’s website.
For Lyons, noting parallelism with the real-life world and the play inspired her direction. Lyons recognizes the world the audience lives in and the common denominator of society when ordering the scenes.
“The production was centered on depression as this underlying drone, or layer around this crazy information superhighway that we live inside of,” said Lyons. “Because that’s what happens when we’re sitting in information overload all the time. We feel so lonely and feel so much pain in the world. We get depressed. There’s a mental health crisis, absolutely.”
Emotion and all its definitions and subsidiaries are the common thread in the haphazardness of this play.
Rain Reaza, an ensemble cast member, noted themes of universality and the five stages of grief all of which incorporate a relatedness, but simultaneously wavering experiences grounded in spontaneity of life and human emotion.
“It’s an anthology of scenes regarding human life,” said Reaza. “I know that leaves so much to the imagination, but everything is so different; there’s so many scenes. I don’t know how else to put it.”
An overwhelmed audience is to be expected by the cast and director. But interpretation from both the individual on the stage and off is equally important.
“All experiences are valid,” said Lyons. “There’s what we think, as the artist who made the show happen. But all that is, is a proposal to you. To me, where the show really happens, is in the audience interpreting and experiencing it.”
“Love and Information” is a play for the human being of today.
“This is a play in which an exhausted, depressed person in 2023 attempts to climb out of the totally emotionally and mentally over-stimulating nature of communication and human relationships in our world to make a connection and find something that feels worth living for,” said Lyons.
Images courtesy of CPP Theatre and New Dance department