Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love and Information ***

Caryl Churchill is acclaimed by many as Britain's foremost living playwright; she is certainly one of its most prolific and unpredictable. Her 40+ works range from the sublime (Cloud 9) to the ridiculous (Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?). Since she never repeats herself, each play is in some sense experimental. Her latest work to arrive in New York, courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop, is a set of over 50 sketches, mostly for two actors, ranging in length from a few seconds to a few minutes. They are loosely connected by the theme of information -- the overwhelming amount of it, the ways we remember it, forget it, communicate it or withhold it. The sketches are grouped into seven sections plus an epilogue, but the unifying theme of each section is far from clear; nor is the rationale for the sequence of sections. I did not feel any sense of the beginning, middle or end that I would expect a play to have. The blackouts between sketches are accompanied by an aggressive sound design by Christopher Shutt with loud noises that act as an aural palate cleanser. What made the evening intriguing is that Churchill has a rare ability to create vividly specific characters and situations in just a few moments; what made it entertaining is that many of the sketches are extremely funny. The cast of 16 is excellent, the costumes by Gabriel Berry and Andrea Hood are a delight, Miriam Buether's set design is effective and James Macdonald's direction is superb. Although the evening was entertaining, I felt the work lacked coherence and depth and would benefit from 15 minutes of cuts. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes; no intermission.

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