Searching for love in parallel universes – a review of Constellations

Lindsay Little Theatre presents production of groundbreaking play on November 3 and 4

Infinite possibilities: Lindsay Little Theatre's production of British playwright Nick Payne's "Constellations" explores the relationship of a couple (Seamus McCann and Miranda Warren) using the concept of the multiverse, a theory of quantum physics that proposes every choice we make creates a different and simultaneous reality. (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)
Infinite possibilities: Lindsay Little Theatre's production of British playwright Nick Payne's "Constellations" explores the relationship of a couple (Seamus McCann and Miranda Warren) using the concept of the multiverse, a theory of quantum physics that proposes every choice we make creates a different and simultaneous reality. (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)

On Friday and Saturday (November 3 and 4), Lindsay Little Theatre presents British playwright Nick Payne’s groundbreaking play Constellations. Directed by Kathryn Wooldridge-Condon and featuring Miranda Warren and Seamus McCann, Constellations is a modern love story based on the multiverse theory of quantum physics.

While this is a difficult production with an unlikely premise, Constellations is one of the most original and emotionally intense dramas I’ve seen in a while, and is presented by a talented cast with a passion for the material.

Making its debut at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2012, Constellations was a quick hit with British theatre fans, and by November of the same year it moved to the prestigious Duke of York’s Theatre. The show received the Evening Standard Theatre Award for best play, making playwright Nick Payne — who was 29 years old at the time — the youngest writer to win the award.

Constellations made its way to Broadway in 2015 with big-name film actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson in the roles of Roland and Marianne. The show was a critic favourite, and was nominated for Tony Awards in the category of best show, actor, and actress.

To appreciate Constellations, audience members need a very basic understanding of the concept of the multiverse from quantum physics: the theory that for every choice we make, an infinite number of alternate realities are created where the same moment in time replays but with different outcomes.

This may sound difficult to comprehend, but don’t be intimidated by it; you only need the most basic understanding of the multiverse to enjoy the show. The audience quickly understands the idea once they get used to the rhythm of the play.

Furthermore, any complicated scientific theory and jargon in the script eventually becomes lost within the drama, and the focus shifts to the emotions that unfold between the two characters — making for a beautiful, and often tragic, love story between two endearing characters who have the multiverse stacked against them.

In Constellations we are introduced to two people, Roland (Seamus McCann) and Marianne (Miranda Warren), who meet at a barbeque. Marianne introduces herself to Roland by going into a dialogue about licking your elbows. In one scenario, Roland rejects Marianne right away by saying he is married. In the next scenario, Roland states that he just got out of a long-term relationship. In the next scenario, Roland opens himself up to Marianne and they fall in love.

As Roland and Marianne, actors Seamus McCann and Miranda Warren had to memorize 47 different scenes portraying the different realities created by the choices the characters make. (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)
As Roland and Marianne, actors Seamus McCann and Miranda Warren had to memorize 47 different scenes portraying the different realities created by the choices the characters make. (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)

Constellations looks at the journey of Roland and Marianne’s relationship by exploring variations of their story in the multiverse through 47 small scenes. We experience break-ups, make-ups, infidelity, marriage, and reunions — all leading to the ultimate conclusion of their love story.

Although the science behind this might seem a bit abstract, what is more relatable is the intense emotion within the production itself.

Ultimately a love story, most of the time we experience the emotions that go along with that. However, the different realities offer different emotions, including rage, fear, grief and — often the most tragic — indifference. In all of the scenarios the emotional meter is pushed to number eleven, creating an intense response from the audience and the performers alike.

In performing Constellations, Miranda and Seamus have a tremendous undertaking. This is not a show in which the actors can just memorize the lines and breeze through a few scenes. Miranda and Seamus had to memorize 47 different scenes, many of which have very similar lines with just the smallest variations.

On top of that, great attention is made to the order in which the scenes are presented, the performers’ positions on the stage, and the emotional meaning of each separate scene and response. The key element seems to be each performer’s dependence on the other to carry out a show that’s a grueling marathon in memorization. The performers need to be completely in synch, mentally and emotionally.

Miranda and Seamus pull this off, showing not only their tremendous acting ability but also the trust and support in each other for this complicated script. It is a tremendous performance by both actors, who mesh as one of the best acting teams I’ve seen this year.

But the performance of Constellations isn’t the only thing Lindsay Little Theatre is presenting the night of the show. Prior to the play, musician Andrew “Stubs” Bane takes the stage for a performance of his unique style of one-finger blues. A powerful musician, Bane mixes blues and rockabilly with a hint of soul.

Prior to the performance of the play "Constellations", Lindsay Little Theatre presents a mini-concert featuring musician Andrew "Stubs" Bane playing one-finger blues.  Your ticket to the show also includes appetizers and a complimentary drink ticket.  (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)
Prior to the performance of the play “Constellations”, Lindsay Little Theatre presents a mini-concert featuring musician Andrew “Stubs” Bane playing one-finger blues. Your ticket to the show also includes appetizers and a complimentary drink ticket. (Photo: Sam Tweedle / kawarthaNOW.com)

Appetizers are also served in the lobby between Bane’s mini-concert and the start of Constellations, where a complimentary drink ticket is provided. There is also a quick informal discussion of the science behind the multiverse to prepare the audience for the unique concept of the show.

This combination of food, drink, music, and theatre — which Lindsay Little Theatre has dubbed as an evening of “infinite possibilities” — for an affordable ticket price makes Constellations a perfect night out.

Kathryn and her company have taken a bold risk in presenting Constellations at Lindsay Little Theatre, but it’s one that pays off. Simply put, Constellations is one of the most interesting shows that I’ve seen in 2017, and Miranda and Seamus display a tremendous amount of skill in pulling off a highly complicated performance.

A show that deserves the word phenomenal in every sense of its meaning, Constellations is emotional and powerful high-concept theatre. This show needs to be seen and supported and, if you live in Peterborough, is worth the short drive to Lindsay.

You will not be disappointed, and it’ll be a show that will have you wondering about how your choices have affected your own life, and question the reality we live in. Take the leap of faith and go and see Constellations.

Constellations runs on Friday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 4th at Lindsay Little Theatre (55 George St. W., Lindsay). The show begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are $25, which includes appetizers and a complimentary drink ticket, and can be purchased in advance in person or by phone at the Academy Theatre box office (2 Lindsay St. S., Lindsay, 705-324-911), online at online at www.kawarthatickets.ca , or at the door the night of the performance.

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Sam Tweedle

Since 2013, Sam Tweedle has been writing as an arts and culture journalist for kawarthaNOW, with special attention to Peterborough’s theatrical community. However, his career as an arts writer goes back further via his website Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict where Sam has interviewed some of the entertainment world’s most notable and beloved entertainers. Sam’s pop culture writing has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, The National Post, CNN.com, Filmfax Magazine and The New Yorker. You can follow Sam on Instagram at sam_tweedle_z where he posts about his four greatest loves: cats, comic books, movies, and records. Sam no longer uses Twitter because, as far as he’s concerned, it’s no longer a thing.

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