Love and Information is unusual for a Fringe Festival, a work by major British playwright Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine; Top Girls) that’s been produced by theaters in London and New York since 2011. Yet Churchill (now in her mid-70s) has always been an edgy artist, and her plays have never been considered mainstream. So this one is a perfect fit for the Cincy Fringe.
This production features superior, versatile work by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s acting intern company (Terrance J. Ganser, Kadeem Ali Harris, Molly Israel, Aziza Macklin, Deirdre Manning, Patrick E. Phillips, Emily Scott and Natalie Joyce Smith). It’s been beautifully staged and directed by ETC directing intern Ben Raanan.
The play (wisely reduced to to about 70 minutes from its original two-hour length) consists of a series of vignettes, some lasting only a few seconds. While it’s a little hard to describe, each one touches on surprisingly familiar themes about how people communicate, how they yearn for facts and information to make sense of their lives and how love doesn’t necessarily flow from how much you know. While that might sound a little heady, Love and Information surprisingly accessible; in fact, by the end, it seems like a slice-of-life play about people and themes that literally everyone can relate to.
The scenes are varied: One person urges another to share a secret, only to find that knowing it is unexpectedly difficult; a husband no longer recognizes his wife, and she is terrified to realize that reciting the facts of their relationship isn’t enough to make him remember her; a man and woman argue over whether a virtual relationship is a real one; some people remember everything and some remember nothing — and it’s never quite enough; and so on. Scenes fly by, seamlessly flowing one into another, with the actors focused (literally) by a circle of white light. Eventually, the effect is cumulative and, by the end of the play, its message gets through: Logic and love rarely go together, and increasing one’s information does not guarantee any answers to life’s hard questions.
It’s a tribute to Raanan and the ETC actors that no one performer stood out over the others, despite playing multiple ages, characters and types. Likewise, the sharp pace of the play kept the audience engaged and, although a lot was thrown at us, we never felt lost. And as for the play itself, it makes sense despite its unusual form.
There are plenty of reasons to see it; you shouldn’t miss this one.
Ed Cohen is a freelance director, with much of his recent work with CCM, NKU and small professional theatres around town. In his parallel life, his is a trial attorney in downtown Cincinnati.
Read the official 32-page FRINGE FESTIVAL GUIDE here and find the full performance lineup here .