CONSTELLATIONS-A Mind-Bending Love Story
By Nick Payne
Dallas Theater Center
Director –Wendy Dann
Scenic Designer –Steve TenEyck
Lighting Designer—Steve TenEyck
Sound Designer – Ryan Rumery
Costume Designer – Melissa Panzarello
Dialect Coach—Anne Schilling
British Sign Language Consultant—Laurel Whitsett
Reviewed Performance: 9/4/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
When I agreed to review Constellations, I had no idea what the content of the play might be. I envisioned a play about the story of the stars, or perhaps nothing to do with stars-maybe Constellations was a metaphor for something completely different. In both respects, I was correct. Imagine, if you will, a romantic story concerning a theoretical physicist and a beekeeper whose romantic story breaks the boundaries of the space-time continuum. Sort of sounds like elements of the television series “The Big Bang Theory,” doesn’t it?
Selected by The New York Times as one of the ten best plays of 2015, Constellations gives audiences two perspectives on time: the vast and the intimate. In this show, two perspectives and two people collide, fall in love, divide, reunite, and marry in multiple universes. The smallest choice they make changes the outcome of the next minute, the next hour, and perhaps the rest of their lives. Audiences are presented with the following rhetorical question: “if every encounter has millions of potential outcomes, is there one outcome that is inevitable?” Think along the same lines as the 1993 film, Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell flick Groundhog Day. But, before I left Constellations, I was left pondering if there is a greater power out in the vast universe dictating each decision and situation that we each encounter and face every day. (And wondering if any decision I have ever been forced to make could have changed the outcome of the next minute, hour or year of my life.) The fact that I am a Gemini probably doesn’t help my sense of decision making either. Insert a laugh here. Now, on to the review.
Director Wendy Dann brought together a strong and brilliant duo cast who worked well together as a cohesive unit. It is apparent that a lot of talent, characterization and energy went into this production. The chemistry between Mr. Organ and Ms. Pistorius on stage was almost magical. I would not be surprised if they had been friends for a long time, because they certainly captured the innocence, honesty, and relationship as two friends/romantic interests on stage. It is not very often that you find many plays with just two characters on stage. With Dann’s phenomenal staging, Organ and Pistorius were able to take audiences on a journey with them from beginning of the story to the end, and from the beginning of their relationship to the end. There were some intense moments, and strong emotions from the actors and the audience. Even though the production was a short 90 minutes, I felt connected to the story, and to the characters almost instantly. It was truly a unique experience at the theater, and one that I encourage audiences to see. The story will certainly pull you in, and the acting will keep you in the moment.
Sets were designed by Steve TenEyck. There were many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. Upon entering the small, theatre-in-the-round space, I was immediately taken aback by the lack of set. There was a raised round platform with the suggestion of a bench, and two ramps-suitable for the suggestion of any time or place. This was one of the main themes of the production. A black box theatre is very much a blank canvas and can take the shape and form of anything that is suggested by scenic designers. I absolutely love a black box theatre because it can be transformed into anything you want it to be. Mr. TenEyck was successful in conveying the message that “time is irrelevant,” a powerful quote delivered many times throughout the course of the story.
Because the set was so simple, it allowed the focus to be on the characters and their relationship in the story. If the scenic designs and sets had been any more, than, it would have taken away from the story and the character’s journey in the story. It speaks volumes of the talents of Mr. TenEyck, and the collaboration between the director and scenic designer. I especially enjoyed being able to get “up close and personal” with the two characters, and to really experience every line of dialogue as it unfolded (time and time again). This has been the third production that I have reviewed that has been in a black box space, and it seems that each time I experience a production in one, my fondness for the style of space becomes greater. I greatly enjoyed getting up close and personal with the cast, and experiencing every moment and emotion throughout the course of the story.
I was most impressed with the lighting, also designed by Mr. TenEyck. The overall lighting design was a blanket of stars, in varying pattern (reminiscent of different constellations) that would change as each scene would unfold. Every time a new perspective would be presented, the color of the stars, and pattern would be slightly different. It was one of those little touches that would have certainly been missed if it had not been present. In addition, I enjoyed how the lighting complimented the mood and theme of each scene-or each part of the relationship between Roland and Marianne.
Alex Organ was incredible in the role of beekeeper Roland. Mr. Organ had impeccable honesty on stage and had excellent chemistry with his female counterpart, Marianne (played phenomenally by Aliison Pistorius). Not only was I led to believe that Roland and Marianne’s relationship was a legitimate romantic relationship, but, I also felt that the two actors were very adept at telling the story, and made it very realistic. Even though it is one relationship, there are infinite possibilities and boundless potential of free will and friendship. Mr. Organ and Ms. Pistorius did a fantastic job of carrying such difficult material, and never provided a dull moment in the story. I was moved to tears (just as I believe they were) at pivotal moments in the story, and was left to think about choices in my own life that may have had different outcomes had the space-time continuum been at a different point.
Constellations is an enjoyable experience at the theatre. If anything, it allows you to see the work of two very talented actors, and a genuine romantic story on stage. It takes away the bells and whistles of a production, and strips down to the meat of the story, the message of time being as infinite as space, and a simple existence. What you will see is a powerful love story, and a meaningful bond on stage. Take the opportunity to see Constellations at the Dallas Theater Center. It will be an experience of mind-bending proportions.
Plays through October. 9.
Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre/Studio Theatre
2400 Flora Street
Dallas, Texas 75201
Ticket prices range from $20-$99.
For more information or to purchase tickets call the Box Office at 214-880-0202, or visit www.DallasTheaterCenter.org