In Nick Payne’s Constellations, now onstage at Pottstown’s Steel River Playhouse, each time the lights go down and then back up, we’re in not just a different scene but a different universe. It’s a 90-minute one-act that packs no less than 50 scenes (audiences should be advised of strong language, adult themes, and brief violence).
The relatively small stage of Constellations has a unique set, constructed of hexagons that evoke honeycomb, an homage to the character Roland (Eric Rupp), who’s a beekeeper. The show follows the many incarnations of his romance with Marianne (Emily-Grace Murray), a scientist. The play, staged in the round in Steel Rivers’s Newberry Loft, revolves around Roland and Marianne, following them through each universe they live in.
Each scene keeps you guessing: You do not know what version of Roland and Marianne you will experience next. Roland might be shy in one and then, in the next, more confident. Marianne can be standoffish but then appear more caring.
Rupp and Murray have a genuine rapport that makes us feel like we’re looking into the window of a real couple’s life, with dialogue that feels like something you’d overhear on the street or at lunchtime. Things get intense when, for example, Marianne gets a stressful diagnosis and, unable to handle it, takes it out on Roland. But more lighthearted scenes follow, with funny lines that uplift the mood.
The play does a good job of keeping the audience alert: some scenes are as short as 30 seconds, and others can be as long as 15 minutes—and you do not know when that particular universe will “end.” I enjoyed the show. It makes you feel like you are part of these characters’ lives, and you get invested in them. It’s an emotional rollercoaster (in a good way), and at the end, I felt sad but completely satisfied with the experience.
What, When, Where
Constellations. By Nick Payne, directed by Suki. Through May 12, 2019, at Steel River Playhouse, 245 East High Street, Pottstown PA. (610) 970-1199 or steelriver-playhouse.org.
The Steel River Playhouse is a wheelchair-accessible venue.