BWW Review: Well Executed CONSTELLATIONS at Epic Theatre Company

BWW Review: Well Executed CONSTELLATIONS at Epic Theatre Company

Playwright Nick Payne is someone who asks a lot of his audience. On its surface, CONSTELLATIONS is the story of the relationship between Marianne and Roland, in execution though, the play examines every possible iteration of that relationship a bit like if the movie Sliding Doors had 50 Gwyneths in it. The requires the two actors in this 75 minute play to become multiple different versions of their character with just a brief pause and audio signal to the audience that things are changing. Thankfully, Epic Theatre regulars Hannah Lum and Christopher Crider-Plonka are up for the challenge and manage to create what feels like a masterclass in character creation. The wonderfully spare set design by Jillian Eddy serves the story and creates visual interest without distracting from the drama and humor of the love story.

Roland and Marianne meet over and over in this play, before everything finally clicks for them. Sometimes, they already have boyfriends/girlfriends/ spouses, other times, they just don't quite connect. The first part of the play feels like a clock ticking down toward synchronicity, and that idea is reinforced by the set design which has the walls of the black box theatre adorned with various constellations, and a galaxy on the floor that the actors move around until they finally get closer to each other. The audio cues, which sound a like a electrical pulse, are a recognizable but not distracting way to transition between scenes.

The dialogue repeats in this and several other sections of the play, changing slightly with each reset. At times, the repetition can get a bit tedious, but it's also quite amazing to watch the two actors deliver nearly identical lines in different ways every time. Lum and Crider-Plonka have a great rapport and good chemistry that makes their relationship feel real and worth rooting for. It's particularly impressive that Lum and Crider-Plonka manage to make the audience care about their characters in such a short amount of time, and also while their characters never feel quite settled. We know that Marianna is a scientist (astrophysicist/cosmologist) and that Roland is a bee-keeper, but other small details about their actions keep shifting, so it's really up to the actors to make us care, more so than the dialogue.

Lum turns out what is among her best performances to date. With every scene reset she becomes a different, but still familiar version of Marianne, and as circumstances get harder, she handles those difficulties with sincerity and an understandable sense of frustration that feels incredibly real. Crider-Plonka is in turns affable and a protector, but his performance is slightly less consistent than Lum's. The two of them work very well together and when their relationship is good, it feels as natural as a waltz.

While this is not an easy play to watch, it is unique and intriguing. It's the kind of work that gets under your skin, and Epic's production feels so perfect it's hard to imagine another theatre doing anything differently.

All Performances at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston, RI 02910
Tickets are $20 General Admission, $15 for Seniors
Students (High School and College) and Military Receive Free Tickets to Any Performance as Part of Epic's Free Ticketing Program
Tickets can be purchased at http://www.artistsexchange.org/theatre82/upcomingperformances.html

Performances
Friday, July 13th @ 8pm, Saturday, July 14th @ 8pm
Friday, July 20th @ 8pm, Saturday, July 21st @ 8pm
Friday, July 27th @ 8pm, Saturday, July 28th @ 8pm

Photos by Dave Cantelli.



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