As I stood in the cozy lobby of Minetta Lane Theatre, an elegantly dressed woman picked up her cellphone and did not even say "Hello." She just waited for a moment and then abruptly began to sob quietly. Her friends began to rub her arms and embrace her as they quietly apologized and then they asked if she wanted to leave. She said "No" and disappeared into the darkness of the theatre as the doors swung open. As I watched the performance of Love and Information, I felt an ever-present empathy for this lady whose life I had only een a snippet of. The show followed this pattern by quickly revealing a flash of the lives of individuals and situations. These random situations presented so many shades of emotion and reminded me that "love" can materialize in many different ways. Love can feel grimy, love can be hurtful, love might even be selfish at some points.
The space felt like an old, cozy movie theater and, as I took my seat, the stage was lined in electric blue light. As soon as the stage was flooded with bright white light, an enclosed cubic space presented itself with three walls that were linedwith graph paper, the same that I constantly used in trigonometry. The appearance of humongous upright beds and sofa couches, seemed a bit disorienting and illusion-like. The clean lines and geometric conventionality provided a striking contrast. It kept me alert and tuned into the wild interactions. Those constant rearrangements of lives felt like that quickly moving rubix cube, from the cover of the playbill.
How does what you know impact how you feel? The question was present even before I got to my seat, with the woman who learned about something devastating and still chose to go on into the the theater. Names were rarely necessary, back-stories felt unneeded. The things that I thought defined a developed story were thrown to the wayside. I didn't feel the need to interpret and search for clues. I would take in what was onstage in that moment - what the show was giving me.
The scenes where one character attempted to force another how to feel felt separate to me. A soccer coach and a raging young player come to my mind. In the short scene, the coach attempts to elicit an apology from the boy who kicked a member of an opposing team. The boy barks back and tells the coach that he doesn't feel sorry. This boy knew what he did was wrong and understood the morality of it, but he couldn't be forced to feel ashamed or incorrect in his actions; when presented in the context of Love and Information this really fascinated me, got me thinking.
In another moment, an older "sister" reveals to her younger brother that she is actually his mother who had him at a very young age. I saw how this information would change the nature of their relationship. Once the knowledge was imparted to the boy, he wanted to control their new world. He helplessly whimpered that he did not want their lives to change and that knowing this information would devastate his mother, who was in actuality his grandmother. I knew that once this was shared there was no way they could go on pretending, but before they could deal with this, the scene ended.
A few scenes of the piece dealt with people who could not retain memories. In one scene, a man was sat down and instructed to play the piano. He seemed surprised and unsure of himself and the object presented to him. But as he played the piano, with his back facing the audience, I got the sense of intuition and raw instinct coming over him. The knowledge had never left his fingertips and his head rhythmically bobbed to the song. I felt so drawn into this instrument ingrained in a man, even though the scene said little for me to draw from.
After Love and Information, I hopped on the subway to ride home. I was ecstatic to see so many riders around me with the same playbill as mine. Single audience members (including myself) voraciously scanned cast bios and articles and flipped to the back of the pages to count up how many shows they had seen from the list provided, while duos exchanged ideas on the show. I listened (or eavesdropped?... I mean we were standing on top of each other) intently and here’s what I picked up from a few conversations:
NYC Subway Riders Thoughts on Love and Information: 1. The “fear scene” (which depicted a cello teacher coaching her anxiety-ridden student) resonated with almost everyone. 2. The constant shut down of the lights sometimes cut off the visual experience for one guy. Others found the blackouts a fantastic time to process their thoughts and the quick scene they had just witnessed.
Subway etiquette is an abstract concept, but I do try to adhere to it. I was standing right at the center of a car buzzing with responses to a theater piece practically fifteen people around me had also just witnessed. The show was about relationships and the exchange of knowledge. I wanted to sit down next to the older woman writing little notes in the margins of the playbill and inquire– “Hey, what did you think?” and glean some new insight from her little notes in purple pen. I wanted to jump into the duo’s conversation who were basically analyzing the show from a stage manager’s perspective and sounded like they could write a book on it.
Yet, I shut myself down and rode the L train until my designated stop. I’m thinking that I need a group meet-up after shows, especially when I see a show that is so about the connection of individuals. I know our guardians usually tell us to avoid talking to strangers, but sometimes I think theater requires the opposite.