Mounted for the first time in Toronto, the spectacular, award-winning play Constellations has audiences talking. With an intricate and complex look at the possible multiverses that coexist in our lives, this production is easily accessible to those who can identify with the hardships of relationships.
Constellations follows Marianne (Cara Ricketts) and Roland (Graham Cuthbertson) through the trajectory of their relationship with all its trials and successes: breaking up, getting back together, adultery, marriage and death. Their relationship is played out through Nick Payne’s cyclical structure with the same conversations repeated in different tones and emotions, showing the various alternatives that could change the course of their relationship.
Payne’s two-hander play is entirely dialogue driven and equal parts charming and heartbreaking. Constellations emphasizes both the disappointing and wonderful thing about possibilities: there are so many ways in which our lives and relationships can play out. Payne lays out all these alternatives in front of us, inviting us to participate in the conversation.
Peter Hinton’s simple staging keeps Ricketts and Cuthbertson, along with Payne’s script, the central focus of the production. Both actors remain on Michael Gianfrancesco’s impressive circular moving riser for the entirety of the show, except when both admit to their part in their affairs.
Hinton also uses this space to physically stage the constraints of their relationship; for example, when they are arguing, they face opposite to each other as the riser speeds intensely. Conversely, when they are on good terms, they are in connection with each other at the centre of the riser. Hinton also provides powerful imagery when Marianne and Roland leave their shoes on the moving conveyor while their bodies are stagnant in the centre of the riser.
Cellist Jane Chan sits in the corner of the stage for the entirety of the show, striking her strings at moments of intensity and strumming beautiful renditions of classic tunes like Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” Along with this, Peter Cerone brilliantly uses the immediate sound of a ringing bell to acknowledge the fluid transition between repetitive conversations.
The strength of this production is headlined through the infectious chemistry between Ricketts and Cuthbertson. They have impeccable timing, specifically in those moments when the bell prompts their changing attitudes. In 75 minutes, they passionately capture their characters' struggles and successes.
Cuthbertson is fantastic overall, and Ricketts is incredible as she slowly becomes transformed by the illness that impedes her life. One alternate conversation between Marianne and Roland is performed entirely in American Sign Language, a powerful moment that spilled out into the stunned silence of the audience. That moment alone sold me on this thought-provoking and engaging production.
Constellations is playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre until Nov. 27. For more information, visit https://www.canadianstage.com/.