A Brief Love Story with Nearly Everything (Red Turnip Theater’s “CONSTELLATIONS” – a Review)

Red Turnip Theater’s CONSTELLATIONS

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity expands to a great number of possibilities; countless even. Playwright Nick Payne explores one of these probabilities and took a side on the story of romance. CONSTELLATIONS is a short, but a stinging discourse about how our human choices create new worlds and realities; separated – yet still beautifully connected. Get my drift? I’ll try to make more sense later.

Let’s begin with the story: Marianne meets Roland. In the next scene, we go back. Now, it is Roland who meets Marianne. Plus three times more. One of the first meetings would work out somehow and they’d move on, but for the most part of each reality, there could be one or two that just wouldn’t fit. And so for the rest of these possibilities, their connections end. But their story continues from that one happy connection. They go on a date. Roland likes Marianne, and then we go back for, at least, five replays: (1) Marianne turns out to be a Physics nerd on the first date, which turns Roland off; (2) Roland turns out to be an asshole and Marianne asks him to leave. (3) Marianne and Roland click. And so on. So that’s how the rest of the story goes. Weirdly fantastic. As it explores the differing dimensions of our lives’ what ifs, Roland and Marianne’s stories can hook you like no other.

You enter the theater bathed in smoked lights and floating hexagonial platforms. The entire set is enveloped with a myriad of intersecting nylon cords, which somewhat makes you wonder how the stage would look like if you move to another seat. Yes, another seat could be another experience. Another choice, another perspective, another reality. So in principle, there are no bad seats in Red Turnip Theater’s CONSTELLATION. Even before the curtain rises, Ed Lacson Jr.’s floating sets give you a certain feel of paralleled dependency. Stephen Hawkin would agree.

Red Turnip Theater's CONSTELLATIONSThe show runs for approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. There’s no way Director Rem Zamora would allow a disconnected presentation of Payne’s interconnected scenes. Here, Zamora offers an extremely careful direction, yet allowing his actors to move freely within the set’s limited blocks.  Each character position shows a varying characterization, a result of a choice, a reaction to a previous trigger. In one scene, Roland kneels in front of Marianne and pops the question. His back straight and his face upright. In a replay, Roland kneels again, but this time, he’s hunchbacked, unsure, agitated. This new persona triggers a new reaction from Marianne. As Roland and Marianne jump from one reality to another, Zamora orchestrates so fluidly with sound designer Teresa Barroso’s haunting (medyo) sci-fi score, and John Batalla’s hypnotic lights.

In this local production of CONSTELLATIONS, the realities are divided by an eerie chime during the first few acts. These chimes disappear eventually, leaving us with our own assumptions that these realities, though alternatively happening in other universes, are somehow connected.

The chemistry between  JC Santos and Cris Villonco is undeniable. As the two journey through an interstellar of alternating possibilities for Roland and Marianne, Santos and Villonco  explode with magnetic radiance. Santos’ Roland is quite gentle, unassuming and affable. Villonco, on the other hand, is perky, bright-eyed and lovable. Both start with these characteristics, and as their characters evolve from each’s choices, they logically take root from these original character jump off points.

Payne’s material looks like a collection of impressive outputs from a creative writing exercise on “what ifs.” From another perspective, it gives the feel of Peter Howitt’s 1998 film SLIDING DOORS, where Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) lives in two parallel realities, presenting varying outcomes from varying choices. We also have something like this in musical theater. Yorkey and Kitt’s IF/THEN offers the main character Liz (originally played by Idina Menzel) two different life choices and allows her to live both.

Brave Red Turnip Theater offers, yet another broad philosophy about what  we make of our lives. In CONSTELLATIONS, Roland and Marianne take more than just two roads and live within these realities. It is a very brief love story with nearly every possibility. Interesting to note is that, in each possibility, there is a great probability of failure and of disconnection. Yes. Many are the failures, but greater are the number of chances. Here, we are faced with a philosophy that argues how our imaginations, wishes and choices create realities as we move along. Probably somehow, somewhere out there, we are living a happy ending from a silent wish some years ago. That is because there is a wish after every failure, and in every wish comes a creation, and in each creation – a brand new chance.

In a way, Payne’s unstructured discourse calls to us and urges us not to stop looking, and yearning, and asking, and believing. Like the silking nylons that web Roland and Marianne’s universe/s, there are a great many chances for love to find a way, though slight and elusive, as it may seem.

Happy Day Of Hearts, dear Jellicle Readers!

PHOTOS BY: Mr. Erickson dela Cruz




Tags : constellationscris villoncojc santosred turnip theaterrem zamora
Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

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