Does modern technology make connection easier or more fraught? This is one of the many questions Caryl Churchill asks in ACT’s slick production of her 2012 play Love and Information. It is a wise choice to open ACT’s Strand Theater with this play; the lobby offers technological delights, and the intimate nature of the play operates much better in the Strand than it would in ACT’s lavish Geary Theater.
57 short scenes and 12 versatile actors make up Churchill’s play about our need for more — more information, more stimuli, and more contact. At 90 minutes, it is a work tailored to our dwindling attention spans. By the end of the play, it is hard to recall individual scenes. This is nothing against the actors’ performances, but it instead may unearth what Churchill wishes to achieve — by guzzling data and online content, our lives’ moments may blur together more easily than ever before.
ACT’s swiftly paced show helps emphasize Churchill’s intent as one scene jarringly moves into the next. Robert Brill’s simple, sterile set provides endless opportunities for imagined settings, and Jessie Amoroso’s myriad of costumes help distinguish character and location. Michah J. Stieglitz exquisite projections and Lap Chi Chu’s lighting similarly provide context. Churchill’s locations are often unspecified, and while Casey Stangl’s direction helps create places in tandem with the dialogue some scenes felt more specified than others.
Still, the cast masterfully handles the abstract prose, and out of the ensemble Sharon Lockwood deserves a special shout-out for her varied work. Lockwood is often silent in her scenes, whether her daughter is scrolling through television channels or a shelter volunteer is describing the available cat breeds. Her reactions offer clarity and let the audience gauge a situation, often showing how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the endless buffet of options technology now allows. Lockwood succeeds in providing the appropriate amount of intimacy called for in a play about intangible connections.
Other moments are of course memorable as well. One of the longer scenes (and by longer we’re talking maybe four minutes) entails male lovers reminiscing over dinner about their youthful trysts. Each partner recalls different moments that seem to contradict the others’ memory. One shares heated rendezvous details but seems oblivious to the other’s equally vivid recollections, almost as if he never replayed that memory in his mind. Almost as if he didn’t hit file-click-save, or moved that information to the recycling bin once it was no longer needed.