Theatre Review: Love and Information

My friend and I watched the Sacramento premiere of Love and Information by Caryl Churchill tonight, at the Capital Stage Theatre. With only four rows in a semi circle around a small stage, the theatre contributes to the intimate feel of the play, with the actors coming in and out of the doors and from back stage.

The set design was simple: a series of panels and boxes set at varying distances from the back; when the theatre lights were up, the panels showed large, square brick-like tiles in shades of blue. When the lights went down, the panels radiated with large electrical conducting lines  in glow-in-the-dark paint: they were now broken panels of a motherboard. As the play progressed, the actors would move boxes around, set up little areas of activity, and then just as easily, move them away. It was choreographed beautifully, like a dance.

The play opened with two actors dressed like teens, pouring over a pulp magazine, trying to outdo each other on the facts they know about a favorite actor. Their desperate desire to be the one who knew more poured out of them, the frustration, the final acknowledgement that they would have to go back to the magazine for more and more trivia raised laughter from the audience, but was ultimately sad. Vignette upon vignette followed, and I quickly realized that this was the play: slice of life scenes of actors, either in pairs or groups, or on their own, walked on and off the stage, showing the various ways that people try to communicate with each other, try to find commonalities. There were so many of these: misplaced memories, an alzheimer’s patient with no memory of his wife who was trying desperately to remind him of the special love they had had for each other, people with mental disorders trying to share their deepest thoughts with people who couldn’t quite understand, old lovers reminiscing about their long past romance, neither of them remembering anything about what the other said.

At various times, a silent, still man would show up on the left of the stage with his back to the audience, with people coming up behind him, trying to reach him, with no avail. A similar scene played out on the right side of the stage, this time with a silent, still woman, her misery and depression showing in her stance, arms hugging herself, protecting herself from everyone and the world. There was a scene in a gym, with two men working out, one man trying to convince the other that his fascination with his virtual girlfriend was normal and completely acceptable. The other man’s face and voice showed his escalating frustration beautifully. Another scene with a woman crying over a news bit on her computer feed about babies dying, drowning, failed to incite any reaction in her husband who, after trying to take in what she was telling him, turned back to his smartphone, unfeeling.

What stood out was the fast pace with which the play moved: at one point, I looked at my watch and we were already an hour in. The relentless nature in which the vignettes poured onto the stage made me think of my newsfeed on my computer or smartphone. There was always something else to look at, something else to either be disgusted at, people to be bored with or fascinated by, no real satisfaction or a resolution, because then we were off to the next scene. And isn’t that just how we feel now?  Our news and social connections are lightening fast, quick and brief, requiring only a limited attention span, and in the end, we feel unsatisfied, disjointed, disconnected when we are virtually connected to everything, but in reality, nothing.

At the very end, there is a man rattling off trivia questions to his girlfriend, and she’s responding with what I assume are the right answers in a machine-gun manner, frenzied and excited. He interrupts the flow of questions with one of his own: “Do you love me?” and she snaps at him, “Don’t do that!” After a slight pause, he continues with the trivia questions, and she continues to give the answers, but then she turns to face him, and I say under my breath, just as she does, “I do.”

And that was it. It was done. A connection was made, and it was enough.

I didn’t like the play. But as I walked away from the theatre, and as I drove home, explaining it to my boyfriend on the phone, the words tumbling out of me, the meanings of each vignette sinking in, layers upon layers, I realized that it made an impact.

It connected with me.

 

Capital Stage Theatre
2215 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816

 

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Real Right Now: Life is in these moments

Halfway through the week, with projects complete, half complete, some late, some starting…I notice that I am comfortable in my chair at a job I love, my children are safe and at school, my boyfriend has a job he loves, he has just sent me a video message yet unopened, and I am listening to Corcovado by Getz/Gilberto.

And I realize that I don’t have to wait until the weekend to love my life. It is in moments like these, that I am happy.

Real Right Now: Ritual.

Growing up Hindu, I was surrounded by ritual.  Everything we did had a spiritual undertone. In the morning, my grandfather would walk slowly out the back door with his little silver basket to collect flowers from the garden for the morning prayers.  My grandmother would sweep out the prayer room in preparation, straighten up the pictures of our ancestors, the colorful pictures of the gods.  I would help her remove dead flowers from the day before, put fresh oil in the lamps, twist cotton wool into wicks.  Mornings were peaceful, quiet wakenings.  On holy days, we would wake up even earlier, since we had to take oil baths, and those took a lot longer.  We’d oil our hair and bodies, and then bathe.  This was a necessary purification before participating in prayer.

Rice was a staple at lunchtime.  Before anyone ate lunch or even served themselves, a little scoop was taken to the back patio and set out on a ledge for the crows.  By feeding the crows, we fed our ancestors.

Before we ate our lunch or dinner, my dad or grandfather would always take a little bit of rice and put it outside the plate/banana leaf.  An offering for the gods, aware that we received this food out of their benevolence.

Leaving home, we always said we would come back.  It was a ritual phrase: I’m leaving, but I will be back again.

If we were not going to see our elders in a while, even if they were not related to us, but had a deep relationship with us, we would either bend down and touch their feet and then our foreheads, or do a full prostration in front of them and ask for their formal blessing before we left.

There are so many more, but my point is,there is a reason for ritual.  It provides a framework for social structure, a guide for behaviors, a vehicle to spirituality.  Not all rituals are good, some can be harmful, but for the most part, you are able to see, inherently, when something good can come of it.  I didn’t realize how much I gained from it until I lived for decades without it.

In tossing aside all the rituals, I also discarded the means by which I could create a framework for living successfully in a foreign world, without my family.  I did it, but I made a lot of bad decisions, because I didn’t have a way by which I could routinely get back to my core being, and be able to comfort my soul.

There is a peace that comes over you when you do the rituals that your people have done for millennia.  There is a peace.  And living without that peace did something to my soul.  It started to die a little, while I searched for ways to fill that hole.  I thought I had answers, I scoffed at the old ways of my family, the traditional ways, and filled it in ways that were unfulfilling. I didn’t realize what was happening until recently.

I introduced a small piece of ritual back into my life.

And my boyfriend was the catalyst.

My boyfriend.  I have a deep relationship with this man.  He is younger than me, he is from a different religion, a different background, a different upbringing.  Ten years ago, I would not have looked at him twice.  He is not my type in so many ways- physical, background, career aspirations.  But there was something about him that drew me to him, almost two years ago.  He asked me how my day was, and instead of the usual “Fine, how are you?” I said, completely out of character, “Better, now.”  And he took a second look at me and said, “Interesting.”

You would never think, by giving him a quick glance that he is spiritual or thinks deeply about much at all.  But he has brought me an awareness of what I had, took for granted, and tossed away as valueless.  He has brought me a sense of respect for the soul in another human being, the impact that I have on that soul and mine by everything I do and say.

Two days ago, we started meditating together.  Ten minutes on SundayFifteen minutes today.  And that small portion of time, carved out of my self-generated deadlines and activities, was enough to ground me in small decisions.  Small, but powerful decisions.  I won’t know the effect of them for a while, but as my boyfriend said, “You may think they are small, but you will look back on this one day and realize how powerful those small events were, and how they changed your life.”

He has brought spirituality back into my life by showing me how to meditate and connect with my soul.  This man, born halfway across the world, has shown me that my roots and heritage have value, have worth, and that I had everything I needed, all along, within me.

And as I write this, I realize that my response to him, almost two years ago, was prophetic.

My life, because I met him, truly is better.

 

Lists.

I wrote this post on my other blog, earlier in the year, about taking the next step.  In it, I refered to a list I made at the start of the year, a list of values and attributes that I considered important in the man I want to be with in life.  Here is that list, in no particular order:

Honesty
Atrractive/ Fit/ Healthy
Spark
Humor
Ambition
Passion
Energy/Energetic
Spontaneous/Initiates activities or time together
Calm
Caring
Affectionate, and shows it
Loving
Family is important to him
Empathy
Has a good circle of friends and close friends
Has interests that are varied
Trust
Respectful
Spiritual
Education – ongoing learning is important
Creative

I wote that list, looked at it, and thought it was a little like whistling in the wind.  The universe/God/higher power looked at that list and took up the gauntlet.  I am now with a man who has all of those values and attributes.

The universe/God/higher power has given me what I’ve asked for and it is up to me to take up this chance, this soul lesson, and open myself up to whatever I am supposed to experience, and yes…learn.

Scary?  Most definitely.

Liberating?  Most definitely.

Withe my eyes wide open, heart in my hand, and my soul ready, I recognize this gift I have been given.  My task is to nurture it, treasure it, nourish it, and watch it flourish.

Day by day.