Theatre review: Constellations
What if you had a chance to fall in love all over again?
In Nick Payne's Constellations, which debuted in 2012, the British playwright applied string theory to a relationship between Marianne, a physicist, and Roland, a beekeeper. According to one of the most controversial and unproven ideas in physics, the multiverse in string theory is one where many universes exist parallel to each other. Simply put, we're not alone — there's another one of you out there living a different life and loving a different person. It's this intoxicating alternate reality that the Singapore Repertory Theatre has chosen to delve into in their 80-minute production, directed by Bruce Guthrie.
Inspired by a documentary by Brian Greene that explored the idea of the multiverse, Payne's play looks at the different stages of relationships and its possible outcomes. From the first flirt between Marianne (Stephanie Street) and Roland (Edward Harrison), the audience is drawn into all-too-familiar settings: Nervous ticks between someone who's more interested than the other, awkward silences between a duo who don't have much to say and the heady flush of a blossoming relationship.
Street's Marianne is endearing as she makes a joke that doesn't sit well, disarming when she strikes an emotional blow to her partner. Harrison plays up the easygoing, likeable Roland (who, interestingly, was played by Jake Gyllenhaal in his Broadway debut in 2015) by making us blush as he falls prey to Marianne's theorising explanations, and strikes a chord as he tells us of the three different bees one might encounter. What's likeable about Payne's characters — the only ones we see on stage — are how flawed and imperfect they are. You'll find yourself rooting for either side, or both, as they navigate the rollercoasters in relationships: A first date, a sleepover, an indiscretion, a proposal and a post-split run-in. When the play progresses to place mortality under the microscope, the tensions take on a notably darker tone as the actors switch dynamics with ease.
While these settings are repeated, they never lose momentum or distract the audience as they go through every possible outcome. The stage cleverly uses light projections and constellation-like patterns to weave the characters in and out of the alternate realities as you sit in the dark, going through your own milestones and wondering what could have been.
Constellations runs till 25 March at KC Arts Centre - Home of SRT. For tickets, click here.