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BWW Review: CONSTELLATIONS at Out Of Pocket Productions

A thought-provoking show about love and alternate realities.

BWW Review: CONSTELLATIONS at Out Of Pocket Productions

I learned early on in the pandemic (Spring 2020, aka COVID 1.0) that filmed/livestreamed/Zoomed theatre doesn't really do anything for me. That's not a knock against any particular show or performer or theatre company, just a reality of the medium itself. When you take the quintessential elements of live theatre-the energy, urgency, proximity, and community of fellow audience members-and strip them away, something vital to the art form is lost. If I'm going to devote two-or-three hours to consuming a piece of storytelling, I asked myself, why would I opt for a piece of filmed theatre instead of one of the innumerable offerings on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, etc., all of which are teeming with movies and TV shows that were designed to be viewed on a screen? Thus I haven't accepted many invitations to do theatre criticism over the past year; the invitations have almost exclusively been for streaming productions, and it didn't seem fair to subject a production to my critique when I had a baseline objection to the format.

On a whim I accepted an invitation from Out of Pocket Productions to review their streaming production of "Constellations". I made an exception to my streaming theatre rule mostly because it's a short play (only 60 minutes) and OOPP is one of several local companies that does unique and high-quality theatre on a modest budget, and these are the kinds of theatre troupes that I like to amplify the most (as much as I enjoyed reviewing "Hamilton" I don't think Lin Manuel-Miranda needed the press). And while the streaming "Constellations" still didn't hold a candle to the live theatre experience, I found it to be a captivating and thought-provoking play, and well-worth my time.

"Constellations" is a two-person show written by British playwright Nick Payne. It tells the story of Roland (Jeff Siuda), a beekeeper, and Marianne (Stephanie Roosa), 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. She eventually seeks assisted suicide abroad with Roland's support.

"Constellations" hinges on the chemistry of its two performers, whose characters display intense emotional swings in rapid-fire succession throughout the show's quick 60 minutes; they pivot from flirting to screaming, crying to laughing, and everything in-between as Roland and Marianne experience the ebbs and flows of love and loss. The chemistry comes easy to Siuda and Roosa because they're both talented and experienced actors, but it probably doesn't hurt that they also happen to be married in real life. They bring the quirks and oddities of Roland and Marianne to life, while also working off of each other seamlessly.

OOPP's "Constellations" isn't without its blemishes, mostly of the technical variety; there are several awkward cuts of the camera, and the audio was shaky at various points on the night I viewed. These forgivable imperfections don't detract from the philosophical thrust of the play; can small changes dramatically affect the future? Do alternate realities exist? What do we do with the time that we're given?

Overall, OOPP's production of "Constellations" is smart, moving, well-acted, and is a show that's as well-suited for the small screen as one can ask for. It's streaming online on March 5th and 6th. To purchase tickets, click here.

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