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BWW Review: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Presents a Myriad of Possibilities with CONSTELLATIONS

Playwright Nick Payne takes an unusual approach to his work, CONSTELLATIONS, crafting a simple story that's made more complex by the way in which he allows it to unfold. It's a interesting and engaging piece of theatre that the less open minded might find a bit frustrating due to the very nature of its construction. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis had put together a fascinating production of this work, which is graced with two excellent performances and sharp direction that fully seeks to explore the world that is created. I found it thoroughly engaging, and I think it's a play that deserves your time and attention.

A beekeeper named Roland meets a cosmologist named Marianne. Over the course of about 75 minutes we watch as they meet, date, separate for a bit, are reunited, eventually marry, and deal with a medical condition that threatens the life of Marianne. What makes this set up work is the fact that we're exploring a multiverse where every situation encountered is given multiple outcomes and possibilities. That's the part that some viewers might lose patience with if they're not in tune with the very theme that the play posits.

Ellen Adair (Marianne) and Eric Gilde (Roland) do fabulous work navigating the many changes that occur as each scene plays out multiple times, but with changes that are sometimes subtle, and which often find them in reversed roles. It would have to be a difficult piece to act in, because there's dialog that is often similar, but slightly tweaked. It's the concept of a multiverse playing out in front of us. Adair and Gilde are both more than up to the task, and it requires them to often turn their emotions on and off like a faucet. Their chemistry, as well as their keen abilities to navigate these various "takes" on a particular situation, is at the heart of the play's success.

Steven Woolf does wonders directing the actors, drawing forth performances that are always compelling, and often humorous. The scenic design by Bill Clarke is stark, with a triangular stage positioned in front of a rather ethereal backdrop. There are no props, but they're not needed. Lou Bird's costumes are good fits for each character, and Ann G. Wrightson's lighting design is constantly changing with the variations of each scene. Rusty Wandall's sound design and original music adds immeasurably to the overall mood and tone of the piece.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has put together an engaging evening of theatre that is challenging and moving, opening us up to the myriad of possibilities that exist. I found it engrossing, and sometimes mesmerizing, and I think you will too. CONSTELLATIONS continues through February 5, 2017 in the Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton.



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