Regional Reviews: Phoenix
In Nick Payne's drama Constellations, which centers on the relationship between beekeeper Roland and string theorist Marianne, quantum physics, which Marianne is adept in, offers a scientific explanation for this. She states, "Every choice, every decision you've ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes."
Payne's play is an intriguing theatrical journey into a vast multiverse that seems to have no limits or boundaries. The Phoenix Theatre Company's production features wonderful performances by Emily Mohney and Louis Farber, clear and precise direction, and creative designs that heighten and elevate the multiverse experience.
With lines of dialogue and interactions between the two delivered repeatedly with different inflections and altered physical demeanor each time, as well as the addition or deletion of certain words, we witness how the relationship between Marianne and Roland is shown to have had an exponential number of possible outcomes. While the show moves forward from their first encounter to their last, there are also occasional interruptions where glimpses into the future foreshadow what's to come. This forms, in a way, a jumbled jigsaw puzzle of personal interactions and moments that show how in one scenario they wouldn't get past their first meeting or in another how an affair would break them apart. In doing so, Payne lays out how these parallel lives play out and unfold across time and space to form an almost infinite number of parallel lives.
While the repeated scenes delivered in different ways could come across as an audition or rehearsal exercise in less skilled hands, under Karla Koskinen's precise direction and through the spotless performances by Emily Mohney and Louis Farber (who are a couple in real life, so their chemistry is palpable), a dazzling display of words and emotions is formed. The couple bring their character's parallel lives to three-dimensional life through the expert use of skilled facial expressions, body language, and inflection, along with several silent pauses and fairly good English accents, and the play throbs with electricity and depth for a fast-paced 75 minutes.
The set design by Sarah Harris resembles a large helix with twinkling lights like stars floating over the circular stage, which helps connect the scientific and somewhat interstellar element in the play to the words we hear and actions we see. The sound design and original music composition by Ashton Corey, and Nathaniel White's lighting design add additional layers of dimension via visual and audial elements with snaps and flickers of light and sound constantly filling the air.
Constellations is a beautiful, life-affirming theatrical journey about life, death, love and grief that lets us see the infinite possibilities of the human drama and how every decision we make or word we say has an outcome in our lives and the lives of the people we are connected with.
Constellations runs through January 29, 2023, at Phoenix Theatre Company, 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151.
Director: Karla Koskinen
Cast (in alphabetical order):
*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors & stage managers in the U.S.