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Preview: University Theatre's 'love & information' to begin Jan. 22

The set for University Theatre’s love & information looks like a piece of modern art. Electric blue paint covers the small, intimate theatre’s floor and walls, a row of soup cans sits on a shelf and lamps hang upside down from the ceiling. Looking at it, you recognize that it’s beautiful, but you can’t quite understand why. It’s like a Picasso painting or a post-modern poem. In fact, it’s a lot like the show itself. The artistic value is obvious. The purpose and meaning, however, is a little harder to grasp.

love & information opens this Thursday, Jan. 22, and runs just under 90 minutes with no intermission. The play is vignette style: It consists of short, ostensibly unrelated scenes performed by an ensemble cast, creating an effect that director John Schmor fittingly describes as “kaleidoscopic.”  There is no “A to Z narrative” in this play and no actor portrays the same character twice – a unique artistic challenge for both the actor and the audience.

The 12-person ensemble admirably embraces the difficult material. The variety in characterization as actors jump from character to character is compelling. Transitions between scenes are quick and seamless and the energy onstage is captivating. This cast has been rehearsing since October, and it shows. Schmor commented that he chose to direct this play because of the “experience of ownership” it offers college actors and a collaborative spirit it inspires. It’s apparent that the cast of love & information takes full advantage of that opportunity.

This isn’t to say that the play is without its setbacks. Though the cast performed the scenes with skill, some are a little too strange to swallow. Intimate, powerful onstage moments are immediately followed by what feels like fodder for Saturday Night Live spoofs of high school theatre. The only thing holding these opposites together is the faint philosophical concept of “information.”

One could argue that love & information is a play for our generation: Stories are presented in small “bytes,” and there are plenty of references to iPhones that our great-grandparents could never comprehend. This play has a lot of value, especially from an acting standpoint. Some of the individual scenes are truly relevant and moving. Nonetheless, the play as a whole lacks any kind of satisfying cohesion. love and information does not leave the audience thinking about its meaning, but rather trying desperately to think of its meaning. Perhaps that is modern art at work here, and from afar the beauty is easy to appreciate. The average audience member, however, might want a little bit more.
love & information runs Jan. 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. Performances are in the Hope Theatre on campus, and tickets are FREE with your U of O student ID. More information can be found at the University Theatre website.

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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.