By: Sandi Durell
The stage is awash with floating balloons, or a universe of constellations among which the brilliant British playwright Nick Payne’s work presents this what if romantic two – hander elevated to starry proportions by the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal, as Roland, and Ruth Wilson, as Marianne, two lovers who explore the varying facets of life, love, death, hurt, emotions and more.
Meeting at a barbeque, their relationship moves like a flash of bolt lightening whirling through time and space as the same scene resounds several takes with the different choices they make. Roland is a beekeeper, Marianne a somewhat ditzy and foul-mouthed physicist specializing in theoretical early universe cosmology (if a scientist can actually be ditzy). Can you lick your elbows – they hold the secret to immortality – imagine if everyone could!
It’s like watching a film where the projectionist loses the place and keeps backing it up, over and over again – except in this case, the lovers find themselves reacting to different stimuli that gives them an alternative way to play out their lives in the unlimited universe.
When Marianne discovers she has cancer, she first has to face a death sentence, but on retake gets a better outcome; when Roland proposes to Marianne (a delightfully humorous scene) she says ‘no’ but eventually says ‘yes.’ Choices, choices, the other road not taken – how do we negotiate our lives if we could do that scene again?
Under the exquisite hand of director Michael Longhurst, and with subtle set design by Tom Scutt, accompanied by masterful lighting by Lee Curran, “Constellations” is a play that will make a long-term mark on our psyches. Gyllenhaal and Wilson are undeniably dazzling!
Manhattan Theater Club, Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 West 47th Street, Manhattan; 212-239-6200, www.constellationsbroadway.com Through March 15. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.
*Photos: Joan Marcus