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Constellations at Jungle Theater

Anna Sundberg and Ron Menzel in Constellations. Photo by Dan Norman.

Constellations, a play by Nick Payne and Directed by Gary Gisselman, is entering its last week at the Jungle Theater and is definitely a show to see. It is a relatively new play, having premiered in London in 2012 and having a Broadway run in 2015, both to critical acclaim. I knew nothing about the play going in other than the multiple awards that it had won both in New York and across the pond.

It only took me a short while to realize that I might be the play's prime audience, and therefore my take of it may be slightly biased. The story is one of a relationship between the two protagonists Roland, a beekeeper, and Marianne, a cosmologist, a type of theoretical physicist. It is told in the framework of the multiverse, the idea that we are just part of an infinite amount of other universes, and with every choice that we make there is another universe in which we made a different decision. Therefore in Constellations we see a story of a relationship, told in a not completely linear fashion, and with scenes played multiple times, looking at this relationship within different universes and what comes of the different decisions that are made.

Earlier I said that I may be slightly biased, and that is because I love physics. I became very interested in theater when I was 11, and physics around the same time when I was 12. I read books about physics for fun, and in college I worked as a physics tutor, a job which I loved. So it goes without saying that I was completely enraptured by this form of story telling and exploring abstract concepts of theoretical physics through art on stage.

Anna Sundberg and Ron Menzel in Constellations. Photo by Dan Norman.

And although I was set up to love this play, I think I was equally set up to be disappointed if I felt it wasn't done well, and without proper respect given. But luckily for me and all the audience members this was definitely not the case. The scene was set as you walked into the house (of the theater), and you were greeted by the fantastical scenic design of Kate Sutton-Johnson. It made you feel like you were in the cosmos, where anything was possible. And yet the different elevations and contours of the stage also gave the actors a great space to work with to tell this intimate story.

The actors, Ron Menzel, playing Roland, and Anna Sundberg, playing Marianne both had great chemistry and played with the script beautifully. I mentioned that many of the scenes are played more than once, with subtle differences based on different decisions being made. And Ron Menzel and Anna Sundberg were both able to express these subtle differences with mastery, lead by the direction of Gary Gisselman.

Although through the set this story seems to be set in the cosmos, and deals with jumping from one universe to another, it is at its heart an incredibly beautiful human story. A story of a relationship, and all the joys and tragedies of being in one, and of the subtle influence little decisions can make. I don't want to give away anything else, I feel like doing so would be to spoil the experience of going to see this play. Which I would whole heartedly recommend, to physics nerds, theater nerds and everyone in between.

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