Have you ever stopped to think how different your life would be if you had made an opposite choice on a major decision in your life? Playwright Nick Payne brilliantly explores the notion of multiple roads in a person's life - all happening simultaneously, in his new play Constellations playing at the Manhattan Theater Club. This 70 minute play takes us on a tailspin of a journey in the lives of two people from their initial meeting through dating, marriage and so much more. Only they will start a scene, a light will flash and they will do the scene again in a completely different delivery, changes lines/feeling/intent and sometimes completely different outcomes. It is A Wrinkle in Time meets the romance of Somewhere in Time as this time-skipping play is ultimately a beautiful love story. Perhaps something is in the stars now (or constellations) in that we already have a Broadway musical showing us a parallel world (If/Then); however this play succeeds in this realm where the musical fell short.
When the two stars took to the stage and started this play, I had no idea what to expect when I attended on opening night. The light would shift, they would quickly change positions and I felt I was sitting through an old acting class I had attended in the early 90s. But once I caught on to what was happening, I let go and was swept away by the journey and the moving narrative being shared by this two people. Director Michael Longhurst first directed this piece across the pond and now brings his remarkable touch to debut on Broadway with two actors giving what I believe to be the finest performances this season.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Roland and Ruth Wilson as Marianne are captivating, inspiring, ooze chemistry, working their tails off - and both making Broadway debuts. Sure we know Gyllenhaal from his numerous films and I'll admit to liking him in every film I've seen. I recently fell in love with Ruth Wilson from her Golden Globe winning role in Showtime's The Affair (where ironically she also gets the chance to show two sides to one situation). These two share an amazing love story full of humor, restraint, kindness, passion, indifference – all depending on which reality we are watching at any given moment. I was completely blown away by their dedication to the craft, the rhythm of their duet acting, and the sheer amount of choices they were able to convey in such a short period of time. The clock says 70 minutes, but my mind felt I had lived a much longer evening with this play.
It’s hard to say what Constellations is without sharing too much of this strange yet moving piece of theater. However, I am very aware that this will not be for all theater goers. Big Hollywood name does not always equal good theater. Nor does every tourist want to sit through what some would be quick to call a performance art piece. But as someone who enjoys being prodded to push my own boundaries of art, loves to have my mind messed with on what is real and what isn’t, and also is moved by an incredible love story – this show can’t be beat. Bravo MTC and everyone associated with this show. Thank you for showing the diversity of what Broadway is all about.