Review by Stephanie Lee
Nick Payne’s play Constellations has been brought to life at The Butterfly Club by The Knack Theater. The play unfolds over one hour in a series of short vignettes where conversations are played out multiple ways and different versions of history are written and then re-written before the audience’s eyes.
The often comedic, sometimes heartbreaking play centres on the romance between Marianne, a quantum physicist, and Roland who is a beekeeper. With seemingly nothing in common, the work explores the possibility of connection amongst an infinite number of universes each with different outcomes wildly ranging in scope. Themes of love, meaning and loss drive the short work’s ability to speak broadly to the human experience. The play truly asks what it means to be in this situation in this universe right now with the millions of choices you have had to make to get here.
While the play poses an interesting provocation of how we come to exist in this version of reality with so many possibilities out there, I felt that the theatricality of the work was lost slightly in its staging. This is possibly in part of having to navigate such a small space with a play that spans such a big scope and consists of many quick transitions. Some of the transitions were done really smoothly, creating comedic jumps back to the start of a scene. However, a lot of them could have used some more specific direction to make them less stilted.
The performances by Teodor Lukas and Melissa Tan were often well managed, creating varied interpretations of the same scene played out in different ways. There were quite a few moments of comedy particularly driven by Melissa Tan’s well-timed facial expressions in moments of reaction and their energetic presence on stage. However, at times the actors’ movement on stage felt like it lacked a little bit of more specific direction due to a few too many moments of pacing up and down.
The use of the aisle throughout the performance suited the intimate nature of the play well and brought the audience closer to the characters, sometimes literally engaging the audience in the action of the play. I felt that the audience participation was a tad awkward, however, it was well-intentioned.
The sound design featured some nice moments of composition, and I thought the writing sound between transitions worked well at the start to highlight the reworking of history. However, I was a little confused by why the sound effect disappeared after the first five minutes and then sporadically came back a few times throughout the piece.
Lighting was also used fairly well throughout the performance with lovely low lighting states for more intimate or intense scenes between the characters.
On the whole, Constellations is an interesting play and a well-timed pick with film’s recent obsession with multiplicity of universes. Although I felt that some aspects of this production were lacking and drew away from the emotional undercurrent of the show a bit, The Knack Theater still created a humorous, intimate and entertaining staging of the play.