Encore Michigan

‘Constellations’ at Outvisible exposes the human mind as we try to love

Review December 03, 2017 David Kiley

ALLEN PARK, Mich.–Boy meets girl. Boy is married. Or is he. They date. Or do they? They come to live together. They cheat on one another, or do they? And if so, which does the dirty deed first? Is the boy sheepish and nerdy? Or does he have a violent temper just beneath the surface? or are all of these things true?

Constellations, by playwright Nick Payne, and playing for the first time in Michigan at The Outvisible Theatre in Allen Park, explores the possibilities in a relationship between Marianne (Anna Doyle), a smart, talky professor at Cambridge and a bit of a nerdy beekeeper, Roland (Scott Anthony Joy).

The short play, just about 70 minutes, plays and replays scenes between the two characters, with emphasis and points-of-view being shifted. This can get a bit wearing, but for the knowledge that the play will nip along at a good pace and not overstay its welcome.

The set is very simple–just an elevated stage in Outvisible’s intimate space, which seats about 25. The alternate versions of each scene–vignettes between the two–are separated by a quick dim of the lights. The actors are in normal dress and barefoot as they walk, stomp, kneel and lay about the floor.

The dialogue between the two rings authentic, and is delivered naturally. This kind of play would be unbearable if the writer did not understand how to write genuine dialogue. The actors, both of whom do a splendid job under the direction of Adrian Galea, also sport British accents. It could certainly be done without, but for the references to Cambridge, sections of London and other parts of the U.K. that would seem odd done in Yankee English.

One of the strengths of the play, which has won several awards for its London and Broadway runs, is the conveyance of the conflicts that are in our heads all the time about our situations, our feelings and emotions, all wrestling in our heads at once, especially with and about a person we think we love. Payne has taken a risky, but all together imaginative, approach to pulling this off.

In some respects, the play resembles a polished and rehearsed acting exercise rather than a traditional play. In any case, this not a linear story. It covers time and space between these two people, but not in a straight line. That’s alright. Life certainly does not happen in a straight line for people, except in our imaginations.

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