The Generic Theater in Norfolk VA, down under Chrysler Hall, loves to take on productions that you would not normally see at other theaters. Constellations by Nick Payne is an example when all theatrical facets come together to make a truly enjoyable time at the theatre.
Nick Payne’s Constellations made its debut in London in 2012 and then moved to Broadway in 2015 and starred Jake Gylenhall and Ruth Wilson. The play is composed of a lifetime of joy, anguish and alternate paths leading to a quick and yet satisfying 85 minutes. Generic Theater’s Constellations seemed virtually flawless to me.
The play begins in the dark and then the stage lights are focused on a man and a woman. We learn that their names are Roland (Enver Siddiky) and Marianne (Tiffany Hale) Stage setting is a black platform and sparsely accoutered and with large candles surrounding it. We learn that he is a beekeeper and that she is a physicist. We watch them circle each other as opening lines lead to courtships, dismissals and misunderstandings. A marriage proposal unfolds five different ways.
Siddiky and Hale exhibit an expertness in the way they were able to switch on a dime their emotions and tones. One second Hale may be pleading and obstinate and then the very next scene we see Siddiky acting vulnerable and Hale being indifferent. Their fluidity in their instinctive reactions to the ebb and flow of each scene would have made Sanford Meisner proud. There was one scene in particular that I loved and that was the sign language scene. We may not have understood their sign language but we easily interpreted it based on the actors’ reactions.
But what makes Constellations so profound are the questions raised: Do we have a choice about what direction our lives will go? Is our path already laid out for us, inalterable by free will, determination or desire? Are the minutes, hours and days we spend with each other preciously finite or is time just a construct that we’ve made up to organize our thoughts?
This is one of those plays in which renews my faith in what can be created at a community theatre level. The acting was definitely excellent. The direction by Leigh Strenger demonstrated a mastery of expert blocking and knowledge of the story. Lighting design by Derrion LaZachan Hawkins helped to highlight the emotional feeling for each scene. All of the crew for Constellations should be proud of their wonderful achievement.
Specially thank you to Sissy Bryant for her assistance with this review. Generic Theater Constellations by Nick Payne is presented through permissions granted by Dramatist Play Service. Performances take place at Generic Theater, from Feb 7 - 23. Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757.441.2160.
Words by Frank Connelly. Photos by JLK Productions.