We all operate on the belief that we have one life, and that we should make the most of it since there are no second takes. It’s why carpe diem and YOLO have become the phrases of choice for daredevils who want to maximize the limited time they’ve been handed. But for Red Turnip Theater’s Constellations, that may not be the case.
Constellations operates on the belief that we are living in an unlimited series of multiverses, where “every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginable vast ensemble of parallel universes.” And in this 80-minute play written by Nick Payne and starring only Cris Villonco and JC Santos, it is impressive in terms of premise and delivery.
The story is simple: Marianne, a theoretical physicist, falls in love with Roland, a beekeeper. Together they go through the motions of infatuation, love, heartbreak, and death. But what makes Constellations astonishing is its method, where each scenario is dissected through different emotions and circumstances, such as joy, anger, and nonchalance, viewed in various multiverses.
It’s a very difficult play to stage as emotions go from peak to peak within seconds, but director Rem Zamora taps Villonco and Santos, two fine actors who elegantly carry us through this tumultuous journey with them. They can shift from happiness to anger at the drop of a hat, and it was a tiring yet rewarding journey for the audience. Marianne said, “Imagine rolling a dice 6,000 times,” and that’s what Constellations felt like to me.
The set design is also a thing of wonder. Zamora and set designer Ed Lacson, Jr. construct a dais in the middle, with a silver carpet that looks exactly like the crater of a meteor, and that shifts colors depending on the lighting. And I’m not sure if it’s glitter or dust, but each movement drives a splash of shiny particles to the air, adding an ethereal atmosphere to this poignant piece.
Constellations is bittersweet. I found myself laughing and tearing up. But Marianne drove the point home when she said, “The basic laws of physics don’t have a past and present. Time is irrelevant at the level of atoms and molecules. It’s symmetrical. We have all the time we’ve always had. You’ll still have all our time. There’s not going to be any more or less of it once I’m gone.”
The play is a difficult watch, but one thing I learned is how things can change depending on how you react to things. So be kind. You can be mean in another universe.
Red Turnip Theater’s Constellations ran from February 12 to March 6 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater.