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BWW Review: CONSTELLATIONS at Geva Theatre

Through February 27th.

BWW Review: CONSTELLATIONS at Geva Theatre

After a brief COVID-related delay (an all-too-common frustration in the world of theatre these days), Geva Theatre's Fielding Stage is currently presenting "Constellations", a two-person play about split-second decisions and missed opportunities. This production is particularly meaningful not only because it is Mark Cuddy's final appearance as a director--he retires this summer after a remarkable 27 seasons as Geva's Artistic Director--but because it features his son, Gus Cuddy, and his son's partner Mari Vial-Golden.

"Constellations" is a two-person show written by British playwright Nick Payne. It tells the story of Roland (Cuddy), a beekeeper, and Marianne (Vial-Golden), a cosmologist, through their romantic relationship. Marianne often waxes poetic about cosmology, quantum mechanics, string theory and the belief that there are multiple universes that pull people's lives in various directions. This is reflected in the play's structure as brief scenes are repeated, often with different outcomes. Roland and Marianne meet at a barbecue and become romantically involved. After they've moved in together, a confession of infidelity causes them to break up. After some time, they run in to each other at a ballroom dancing class, resume their relationship, and eventually marry. Marianne is later told by her doctor that she has a tumor and has less than a year to live.

"Constellations" hinges on the performances of its Roland and Marianne, two characters who dramatically swing from passion and intimacy to betrayal and heartbreak. Cuddy and Vial-Golden rise to the occasion, displaying palpable chemistry throughout the show's brief runtime. Vial-Golden in particular is excellent, displaying a presence and emotional rawness that draws in and captivates the audience. It's a show that is perfectly suited to Geva's Fielding Stage, a small studio-like space where the actors and audience are mere feet from each other.

I've reviewed several productions of "Constellations" in my years covering Upstate/WNY theatre, and admittedly some of the thematic beats of this show are always lost on me (at one point in my notes I wrote "are people bees?"). That's more a knock on me than Nick Payne; I struggle with stories about time travel, the multiverse, string theory, etc. I've never been left brain enough to really grasp that stuff. The scientific minutia isn't what's important in "Constellations", however. What matters is Payne's exploration of how our split-second decisions impact our lives, and life's randomness generally. This production, carried by Cuddy and Vial-Golden, wonderfully amplifies these themes.

Geva's production of "Constellations" is intimate and thought-provoking, featuring top-notch acting and directing from Cuddy, who Rochester theatre-goers are surely going to miss. It's playing on the Fielding Stage until February 27th, for tickets and more information click here.



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