Sunday, December 28, 2014

Constellations ***

After being underwhelmed by Nick Payne’s previous play with Jake Gyllenhaal, “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” two years ago (my review is at, I approached this MTC production of “Constellations” with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this two-hander is a considerably more interesting and better written play. In just over an hour, it gives us the arc of a relationship between Marianne (the phenomenal Ruth Wilson, recently of Showtime’s “The Affair”), a quantum physicist, and Roland (Gyllenhaal, in fine form), a beekeeper. With the possibility that there are parallel universes where different versions of ourselves behave differently, Payne presents us with multiple short variations of scenes where things turn out differently based on as little as a different emphasis in a line reading. Some will find these variations fascinating, while others may find them just annoyingly repetitive. The love story has a beginning, middle and end; just don’t expect them to be presented in strict chronological order. As an opportunity for two fine actors to show their stuff, the play succeeds brilliantly. As a story, it appealed more to my head than to my heart. Michael Longhurst’s direction is completely assured. Tom Scutt’s scenic design of white balloons above a raised platform is simple and effective. Lee Curran’s lighting and David McSeveney’s sound design punctuate the scenes emphatically. Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission.

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