“If every possible future exists, then the decisions we do and don’t make will determine which of these futures we actually end up experiencing.”
The possibilities are endless! This is the premise of Constellations, the latest offering from Alberta Theatre Projects. The play is loosely based on String Theory, an idea in modern physics that poses the existence of millions of parallel universes created because particles are not merely point-like dots, but rather strings that stretch to infinity. In other words, anything can happen because life is just one big Choose Your Own Adventure book that could go any number of ways depending on how you maneuver through its pages.
Constellations introduces us to a couple, Roland and Marianne, who are seen repeating moments from their relationship throughout the play, with slight differences each time. Sometimes these differences seem insignificant (the emphasis on a certain word, a synonym used to describe a body part), sometimes major (who cheated on whom, who’s getting married to whom, and so on), but regardless of the perceived importance of these choices, they ultimately lead to more decisions, impressions, and revelations that send the characters down a multitude of different paths.
Sound confusing? It actually isn’t at all thanks to the brilliant writing of Nick Payne and fantastic directing of Valerie Planche. Planche uses the repetitive and non-linear nature of the writing to create sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, but never dull moments. Payne’s playwriting takes a simple story of a relationship and extends it so much further into themes of immortality, time and fate. You’ll walk away thinking about some of the major choices you’ve made in life and where they’ve taken you, but also about all the smaller choices that may have led down a completely different path that you could never expect or explain. David Fraser’s beautiful set was even reminiscent of the chaotic order of nature and made me think of the structure of an atom – so simple yet so complex – and felt perfectly aligned with the scientific themes of the play.
The weak link in this production was the acting — there was zero connection between the two leads, Jamie Konchak and Mike Tan, throughout the show. Great actors could perform a scene about filing taxes and turn an audience on, but these two fail to fully draw the viewer into an award-winning script that deals with love and relationships on some pretty deep levels. While they do have some excellent comedic moments, the script has the potential to be a gorgeous and intense romance, and this production completely fell short in that regard thanks to their utter lack of chemistry
Constellations is a well-written, well-directed play that will make you think while also giving you an entertaining night out. It had the potential to be a beautiful and intense romance, but sadly falls short. It’s worth a watch, but it’s not the “date-theatre” it has such potential to be.
(Photo of Jamie Konchak and Mike Tan courtesy Benjamin Laird.)
Constellations runs at ATP’s Martha Cohen Theatre until March 17.
Christine Armstrong is an arts enthusiast who has spent her career in the arts sector as a community-builder, program coordinator, educator, researcher, publicist, strategist, general manager, fundraiser, and more! She’s currently keeping busy raising her two kids and sitting on the board of the National Arts Centre Foundation.