Is an Interesting Play

By Iride Aparicio

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

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Marianne (CARIE KAWA) and Roland (ROBERT GILBERT

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – In “CONSTELLATIONS,” that opened to the press on August 26 at the Mountain View Center for the Arts, Theatre Works presented an esoteric play that left some people in the audience with a few answers and lots of questions.

CONSTELLATIONS is a dialogue between two characters.  Marianne (CARIE KAWA) a Cosmologist, and Roland (ROBERT GILBERT) a Beekeeper. That is basically all the information that we learns about them.

Marianne, who is single and apparently looking for a mate, introduces herself to complete male strangers by asking them the question:  “Don’t you know that you cannot lick the tip of your elbow? And then explains to them what would happen to humans if they could do it. That is how she meets Roland one night, when both were observing the stars. (represented on the stage by a large metal Polygon with RGB white lights that change to a different color to indicate a change in the story's segment.)

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The cast and creative set of CONSTELLATIONS

On that night, afer Marianne becomes aware that Roland (GILBERT) is really interested in listening her scientific explanations and that he may also be interested in her, begins nourishing their relashionship.

The play continues with a series of short conversations between them, some of which do nor sense to the audience, until they realize that these repetitive conversations are taking place at different times and in different universes, and that their conversations' purpose is to demonstrate to the audience the “String Theory” which states that “Several outcomes can coexist simultaneously. At any given moment.”  That is why any conversation may be repeated several times.

At other times, times, the same conversation that we just heard, is repeated, but changed completely the second time around, so, we hear Marianne asking Roland to stay with her that night, and a in less than a minute asking him to please leave because she needs to be alone. These sudden changes, even with the lights changing color to indicate that the "same conversation" is taking place in a different universe, get very confusing for the audience.  It does not help the play, either, that even when both the actors are playing their roles convincingly, there is no chemistry between them.

In fragments of dialogue we learn that Marianne’s mother was sick and then died, and that Marianne is sick She never mentions her sickness by name, but she mentions that it may be fatal and that she may need Chemo, so we presume that it may be related to Cancer. But a second later, reversing what she just said, she mentions that her sickness does not have to be fatal, because there is treatment that may cure her if she agrees to it.

During her illness, we see her getting weaker an weaker, Losing her ability to write, unable to create memories. We also see Roland taking care or her even when now they can only communicate with each other using Sign language because she cannot talk anymore. The ending like a play, is interesting.

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Beekeeper Roland (GILBERT) and Cosmologist Marianne (KAWA)

CONSTELLATIONS was first staged at the upstairs theatre in London in January 2012 and then transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre in London’s West End in November. The play won the Evening Standard Award in London for Best Play. CONSTELLATIONS debuted on Broadway in 2015, with JAKE GYLLENHAAL starring in the New York Production.

Because CONSTELLATIONS has no premise, the characters lack third dimension. They have no motivation, and their dialogue doesn’t move the action. The play cannot be reviewed as an average play.

We ought to remember that this is a play where an indented line on the stage indicates a change in universe, and in short dialoque segments of tries to answer the question of “Why should the universe have a purpose?

Its dialogue is made out of fractions of conversations, but in those fractions CONSTELLATIONS discuses of “The String Theory”, which examines the world by generating a single theory that explains phenomena, both on a very small and very large scale. It posits that every particle known to us is comprised of minute, vibrating strings, and its mathematics is compatible with general relativity and quantum mechanics. But for the numbers to add up, we would need to accept that our universe is comprised of many space-time dimensions and that that our universe may not be the only universe.

There are also discussions on the theory of possible lives of a single couple, where at any given moment several outcomes can co-exist simultaneously in a vast ensemble of parallel universes. Unless one is familiar with all these theories, one will be unable to fully understand the play.  

In writing CONSTELLATIONS, British Award-winning Playwright NICK PAYNE not only shrank his playwrights’ conventions, (as he admits doing, in his writings) but got too convoluted in his Scientific language. The result is that CONSTELLATIONS, that takes place across forty-some unique iterations in less than two hours, as a play, may be too deep for the average theatre goers, but it is interesting  

The show will continue at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts until September 17, 2017. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to