A fine space-time ro­mance at Cu­ri­ous The­atre

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CUL­TURE - By Lisa Kennedy

In his de­light­ful book “In the Blink of an Eye,” Os­car-win­ning film and sound editor Wal­ter Murch of­fers an anal­ogy about why film “cuts” work, us­ing an ex­am­ple about bees.

“A bee­hive can ap­par­ently be moved 2 inches each night with­out dis­ori­ent­ing the bees,” he writes. And if you move a bee­hive a cou­ple of miles away from its orig­i­nal site, cruel prankster you, bees will find it again and thrive. If, how­ever, writes Murch, “the bee­hive is moved 2 yards, the bees will be fa­tally con­fused.” 6665

Murch’s ex­am­ple might ap­ply to play­wright Nick Payne’s “Con­stel­la­tions” — on­stage at the Cu­ri­ous The­atre Com­pany through April 15 — and not merely be­cause one of the play’s two char­ac­ters is a bee­keeper.

“Con­stel­la­tions” is made up of cut upon cut. Some are dra­matic: The char­ac­ters take a leap into a fu­ture in which a ter­mi­nal ill­ness looms. More of­ten the shifts are sub­tle — a word here, a phrase there. This could have thrown the au­di­ence into ag­gra­vated con­fu­sion. That it doesn’t at­tests to the play­wright’s skills at mov­ing the bee­hive, or in this case, the story of Marianne and Roland. Or, should I say “sto­ries”? Cam­bridge Univer­sity cos­mol­o­gist Marianne (Kelsey Did­ion) and bee­keeper Roland (Brett Aune) meet at a bar­be­cue. As cute as it is, that first in­tro­duc­tion doesn’t quite take. He men­tions a wife. The end. They meet cute again. It doesn’t take. He’s still got a wife. The end. They meet again. Third time’s a charm. Sort of.

These meet­ings aren’t se­quen­tial but par­al­lel, be­cause Payne has set Marianne and Roland’s re­la­tion­ship in the web of the­o­ret­i­cal physics. The pair ex­ists in the Mul­ti­verse, that hy­po­thet­i­cal con­struct that ar­gues that there are a slew of par­al­lel uni­verses, in­clud­ing but hardly lim­ited to the one I just wrote that sen­tence in. Or as Marianne tells Roland, “In the Quan­tum Mul­ti­verse, ev­ery choice, ev­ery de­ci­sion you’ve ever and never made ex­ists in an

unimag­in­ably vast ensem­ble of par­al­lel uni­verses.”

The play’s many rep­e­ti­tions aren’t merely of the “meet cute” va­ri­ety. As “Con­stel­la­tions” pro­gresses and re­gresses, there are his and her in­dis­cre­tions, hers and his re­crim­i­na­tions. Con­fes­sions and anger are looped and tweaked. Sci-fi movies and tele­vi­sion series have a lot more tools to pull off this sort of to-and-fro, in­fin­ity and be­yond stuff. Theater must make do with lan­guage.

A funny bit finds Marianne re­plac­ing “fur­nace” with “in­ferno” and then “sauna” in each it­er­a­tion of a wise­crack. There’s a shift from a riff on Heather (the name of Roland’s sis­ter) to a men- tion of heather, the flora that thrives on coun­try­side moors and fla­vors Roland’s ar­ti­sanal honey.

In places where Payne could have over-ex­plained, he al­lows for el­lipses. Yet we glean what’s tran­spir­ing. More than once, Marianne says to Roland, “A lot of peo­ple ap­par­ently never go through with it.” Although “it” is never named, it’s fairly cer­tain Marianne is talk­ing about as­sisted sui­cide.

The set is stark. Hexag­o­nal blocks of var­i­ous heights speak of ge­om­e­try’s role in the uni­verse; they also give a nod to the found­ing shape of the hon­ey­comb. Shifts in time and space are sig­naled by Shan­non McKin­ney’s light­ing de­sign or the ac­tors’ move­ments.

The play is also swift, as if its ideas and pos­si­bil­i­ties have been placed in a par­ti­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor. A lot takes place (and doesn’t) in the one act’s 70 min­utes.

One thing is clear: Payne trusts the au­di­ence to not be over­whelmed by the con­ceit. It’s less clear if this pro­duc­tion ex­tends that same con­fi­dence. As Marianne and Roland, Did­ion and Aune may be too at­ten­tive to the rig­ors of their char­ac­ter’s rep­e­ti­tions. While the pair (or ver­sions of them) em­brace, canoo­dle and kiss, their af­fec­tion re­mains tepid. The warmth that crit­ics cel­e­brated in their reviews of the Bri­tish de­but (star­ring Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall) or the Tony-nom­i­nated trans­plant, which fea­tured Jake Gyl­len­haal and Ruth Wil­son, is largely ab­sent.

Di­rected by Christy Mon­tourLar­son, this lo­cal pre­miere has plenty of brainy charms. But Payne’s more ten­der rev­e­la­tions about life, im­pend­ing death and ro­mance’s hits and near misses feel muted.

“Con­stel­la­tions” is an en­gag­ing and me­lan­choly af­fair. But I craved more awe. Af­ter all, these are two hu­mans tan­gled in the web of the cos­mos. An­son Nicholson’s pro­jec­tion de­sign, with its images of gal­ax­ies and stars cour­tesy of our friends at NASA, only whet­ted that crav­ing.

Kelsey Did­ion and Brett Aune ex­plore a re­la­tion­ship through par­al­lel sto­ries — as though they in­habit a Mul­ti­verse, caught in the web of the­o­ret­i­cal physics — in “Con­stel­la­tions.” Pro­vided by Cu­ri­ous The­atre

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.