Chicago Theatre Review
Contemporary Life in Short Bites
Love and Information – Remy Bumppo
The latest play by Obie Award-winning British playwright Caryl Churchill’s (“Top Girls,” “Cloud Nine”) opened in 2012 at London’s Royal Court Theatre. It’s finally enjoying a Chicago premiere. Ms. Churchill’s theatrical works often focus on feminist issues and the abuse of power, but are structured in nonconventional ways. Her new play still explores gender issues and domination and the format is certainly unique, but Ms. Churchill is spotlighting some new ideas, and the play’s title says it all.
Boasting over 100 different characters played by ten actors of varying age, gender and race, this 80-minute production, performed without intermission, sports more than 50 scenes. Some last only a few seconds while others are several minutes long. One or two are performed in silence or offer but a single line of dialogue, while others are extended monologues or feature dialogues between two or more characters. And, while these seemingly unrelated snippets are, like everything in today’s world, presented as short bites of information, over the course of the evening the cumulative effect turns into a portrait of modern society. Facts are delivered in various ways: the computer, iPhone, microscope and, of course, by individuals. The scenes often play as if we’ve just walked into the middle of a conversation and often end before there’s any real resolution. The characters are nameless, their relationships to one another are often a mystery and there’s no explanation for what has either come before or afterwards. By the end, what does remain, in Ms. Churchill’s talented hands, is a cry for the need to connect, for intimacy and for love.
Shawn Douglass’ production is sharp and precise. His actors enter and exit everywhere around Jacqueline and Rick Penrod’s cleverly designed set, constructed out of hundreds of white file boxes. The effect is a giant warehouse of stored data. Played against Rick Sims’ original sound track and highlighted with Sarah Hughey’s illumination, Douglass choreographs his ensemble, having them circulate the playing area, subtly replacing set pieces and props and taking their place for the scenes to come. In essence, his production almost becomes a dance, a kind of tribal ritual, during which the pursuit of power and/or love is the goal. Quick change costumes, provided by Emily Waecker, help these ten actors morph into new characters within seconds.
The ensemble cast is excellent, with standout performances by Linda Gillum, Emjoy Gavino, Penelope Walker, Mary Poole, Raymond Fox and David Darlow. Newcomers Jennifer Glasse, Andres Enriquez, Frank Sawa and Gregory Fenner also impress in their first outing with this company.
Caryl Churchill’s fresh, contemporary new play is like one of those collections of open-ended scenes that drama teachers love to use in theatre classes. The characters, who may be played by any gender, race or age, all want something different. What that something is must be determined by the director and his actors. The playwright contends that these moments portray people offering or searching for information, and Churchill connects this to our eternal need for love and approval. In an array of sight-and-sound bites, much like a well-written collection of short stories, the audience will find an assemblage of drama and comedy that connects and depicts modern life, as we know it.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented September 24-November 1 by Remy Bumppo at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling the Greenhouse box office at 773-404-7336 or by going to www.RemyBumppo.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.