What’s the difference between beekeeping and quantum physics? This is not a trick question. It’s probably a foolish question because how does one compare to the other? Damned if I know. That said, the newest play to be mounted on the Sheryl and Harvey White stage at The Old Globe, Constellations by Nick Payne, as quoted in the New York Times as a ‘gorgeous two character drama…may be the most sophisticated date play…’ might be just that, but I’ll leave the gorgeous for others to decide.
In case you were wondering, Constellations is a love story but not in the conventional way love stories unfold. It’s a love story because beekeeper Roland and physicist Marianne fall in love, or maybe not, at least not at the same time, but maybe so. You see the whole premise of Constellations, and this is my simple sum up based on Marianne’s (Victoria Frings) explanation to her new friend or not, the beekeeper Roland (Christian Coulson): ‘In the Quantum Multiuniverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes’. Or different realities coexist simultaneously. Back atcha ‘If everything I’m ever going to do already exists, what’s the point?”
I understand parallel universes. That’s how I feel after watching the evening news. That’s how I was able to feel right at home in the White Theatre and especially with Rick Seer’s smooth direction of this two character play as Marianne and Roland’s relationship jump started, took a step back, restarted, back again, restarted until one of the scenarios took hold and moved to the next. That scene took about four or five different takes in the same round White space only spaced in or on different sides of the theatre.
David Israel Reynoso’s cosmic looking set with geometric patterns on the floor and Bradley King’s red, blue and yellow neon lighting around the sides and green lamps from the ceiling with Fritz Patton’s sound design create all the cosmic atmosphere needed. The actors use most of the space as they circle the universe looking at alternatives to the same theme. At some point I felt I was on a spaceship ready to have a close encounter with the stars.
The rhythm and cadence of Payne’s dialogue felt like a waltz, one two, three, one two three. Every now and then though some little surprise, especially to yours truly as when the proposal of marriage and the descriptions of the different hierarchy in bee world interrupted the rhythm. In my mind of minds, that was not an expectation I had anticipated and after a few different go-around’s, I was ready to say ‘Uncle’.
Every portion of Payne’s play plays a piece in bringing the whole together thanks to the ever so easy, committed and punctuated acting styles of both Coulson and Frings. Coulson’s Roland starts out a bit up tight as opposed to Marianne’s almost giddy approach (‘Do you know it’s almost impossible to lick the tips of your elbows? They hold the secret to immortality’.) On opening night she felt more grounded in her role as her gestures, facial expressions and movements were less restrained. Perhaps it was meant to be. Time will tell, or not.
Over the course of the 65 or so minute play connections were made, love fell in and out of focus, life and death issues came to the fore and in the end or was it the beginning, what we just witnessed will most likely play out again somewhere, some time in some other (or maybe the same) universe or not.
And Oh! By the way. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through May 8th
Organization: The old Globe
Production Type: Romantic Drama
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park.
Ticket Prices: Start at $29.00
Venue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre