Liminal Performance Group has had something to prove since their wunderkind artistic director Bryan Markovitz departed for greener pastures in 2005. Their first show in his absence, Caryl Churchill's Far Away, was a a mess, so I approached The Theory of Love with some trepidation. It's a relief to say that, overall, their new show is more accessible, more thoughtful, and ultimately more successful than the last.
The press release for the show explained that The Theory of Love was to be a "multimedia lecture-opera" exploring the true nature of love. The lecture conceit is more than a gimmick: It's a subtly manipulative way of ensuring that the audience is paying attention. Sitting at a desk in front of two lecterns, waiting to have a complex subject parsed by someone smart, evokes the excitement of waiting for a lecture by your favorite professor who you just know is going to blow your mind. The difference, though, is while my art history professor in college did actually change the way I look at the world, Liminal doesn't harness insight to their pretty conceit.
David Abel and Leo Chapeau lead the lecture, alternating song with love letters, poetry, and biological factoids while words and photographs are projected on the screens behind them. The information comes in waves, and text and images layer and build while music pulses and thrums like blood pumping through the heart. Eventually a critical mass of information is reached—poetry in many languages, video collage, equations, and theorems—and the pace dials back down again to a quiet, contemplative state.
On a moment-to-moment basis, it's engaging, often beautiful, occasionally funny. At the end of the lecture, though, it was announced that if the audience didn't "get everything," we should come back next weekend to learn more. What, exactly, were we supposed to get? What I got was a well-executed, engaging hour of performance. It was nothing to complain about, but neither was it full of the kind of insight and epiphany that made me want to run back to the library and learn more.