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Review: CONSTELLATIONS: Love in Every Universe, at Portland Center Stage

Think back to the moment when you met the love of your life. Now imagine that at that moment, you'd done things differently -- like decided you weren't interested, or blurted out something awkward rather than that suave pick up line you'd been working on, or just brushed past them without speaking. What if you could live all of those different scenarios to see how they turned out? How many times have you reimagined various moments of your life, wondering what would have happened if you'd done something different?

According to string theory, parallel universes exist which contain versions of you who took all of these different courses of action as well as infinitely more. It's in this multiverse that Roland and Marianne navigate the many different paths toward love in Nick Payne's elegant two-person play CONSTELLATIONS, now playing at Portland Center Stage.

CONSTELLATIONS is a smart, occasionally funny, and ultimately devastating play that accomplishes an impressive feat: it provides enough love and physics to be perfect for hopeless romantics and science nerds alike! The play is a series of short vignettes (non-linear, because there's no such thing as time) chronicling the relationship between the two characters. Many of the vignettes occur repeatedly, each time in a different way -- sometimes just a few words are different, sometimes it's the same words but with a completely different emotion behind them, sometimes the characters trade lines, and so on. Each vignette represents a different universe, of which an endless number are possible. The plot opens like a rose, slowly revealing a rich underlying structure.

As the star-crossed lovers (sorry, I had to get that in there somewhere) Silas Weir Mitchell and Dana Green are heavenly (last one, I promise). They're both so charmingly awkward, self-conscious, and oh-so-vulnerable, you'll be hard pressed to not fall in love with at least one of them yourself. And they both do a fantastic job of completely altering the meaning of a word with just a small shift in tone. This is essential, because they must often play the same scene three or four times, which has great potential to go wrong, but in this case never does. I found that even when I knew (or thought I knew) the next line, I still hung on every word. And I was just as thrilled when my predictions were correct as when the new universe took things in a totally different direction.

This production is visually stunning, thanks to Jason Sherwood's set, an undulating matrix of white boxes against a black background that seems to represent the universe folding in on itself. I'm not doing it justice, and it didn't come out in the photo, so you'll just have to go see it for yourself.

Overall, director Chris Coleman and the cast and crew did an incredible job of bringing this intimate play to vivid life. I very highly recommend that you grab a date (and a pack of tissues) and check it out.

CONSTELLATIONS runs through June 11. More info and details here.

Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye

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