The latest venture from Keep Good (Theatre) Company is a highly intellectual emotional rollercoaster. Constellations, written by Nick Payne, is directed by Laura Vingoe-Cram and stars Jeff Schwager and Leslie Smith in an intimate two-person play. With a minimalist set and a running time of only 60 minutes, Constellations successfully rides the fine line of digestible and thought provoking; engaging without becoming tiresome.
Constellations tells the story of Roland, a beekeeper, and Marianne, a theoretical physicist, and the evolution of their relationship across infinite realities.
The push and pull of the actors to and from each other depending on the universe is a delicate dance. That`s not to mention the use of dance and choreography (by Véronique MacKenzie) as a means of establishing universes — a character who was a beginner shifts to another universe and seamlessly becomes a new person. Rather, a new version of the same person.
Speaking of seamless, the voice work done by Schwager and Smith is remarkable. The British play is performed in contemporary English accents, and produces a deep realism despite the metaphysical surroundings.
Something really remarkable about this show is its use of music and light. Accompanying the two actors is cellist India Gailey, creating a reciprocal relationship in which at times the actors lead the music, and others when the music directs the action. The end result is a luxurious harmony creating a dreamy world that could exist inside your head.
Now, these lights (by Vicky Williams): wow. The stage is entirely bare, illuminated only by a structure of lights hung from the ceiling in the shape of honeycomb. The honeycomb indicates the world the action takes place in; every flicker, every rearrangement, every illumination, and every blackout is another world. Accompanied by just green and blue lights as an accent, this is the only indicator of what world you’re in. The only thing on stage is a small complex of honeycomb lights in a corner, filling the stage still dark from the limited reach of the overhead honeycomb.
If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. I came to realize that it doesn’t matter what world you’re in, the experience lies in experiencing them all in succession, and unraveling the bits of mystery that reveal themselves through the shifting worlds. There is an intimacy in this production. The many worlds creates a tremendous sense of hope, matched by devastating loss you feel as each universe’s story of Roland and Marianne comes to an end.
Constellations runs until Sunday at the Waiting Room on Almon Street. $20 at the door, PWYC in advance.
Photo by Stoo Metz