The best thing about Mira Theatrical’s production of Nick Payne’s Constellations, staged in the Missing Persons venue in the Nicholas Building,is that they chose to do the play Constellations. It is an excellent script. Arguably in the top tier of the two-hander plays ever written in the English language. The characters are warm and familiar, but have enough complexity to throw the audience some curve-balls and create some genuine anticipation. The writing is funny, smart as all hell, and has a generous heart that avoids over-sentimentalism. The pacing is razor sharp. There’s also great potential within the text for different productions to put their own stamp on its possibilities. And with text this strong, the challenge becomes how to ensure the production rises to the gauntlet thrown. Unfortunately, Mira Theatrical are not quite there.
For a play with scenes spanning a couple falling in and out of love across the multi-verse – the chief problem here is variety. While the audience certainly gets the feel that things are going differently as the dialogue repeats or veers, there’s a consistently lost opportunity to push the boundaries and breadth of these characters and what can be conveyed with the same text. The forward propulsion of time ends up driving this production more than it should and it causes a lack of electricity to build between the characters/actors, and between the stage and audience.
There’s a feeling that responsibility here is shared between both the director, Casey Gould, and the two leads, Andrew Strano who plays Roland, and Abigail King who plays Marianne. Gould’s direction mostly telegraphs emotion and mood. It’s safe direction and it doesn’t bring out the A-game in Strano or King. Where Strano and King excel is in capturing the awkward, hilarious, moments of uncertainty that would plague two introverts bouncing off of each other in new or broken love. Unfortunately, they often seem to create a comfortable energy on stage together, rather than friction, or sparks, or magnetism, or any sense of what could be celestial bodies colliding in the dark.
Added to the fray is Lucy O’Brien who performs an original score. Given the production is quite pared back and minimal, O’Brien refines the production and lends it some gravity. That said, O’Brien’s score may be taking lead from Gould’s direction as it sometimes telegraphs moments a touch too early, and over sentimentalizes scenes that should speak for themselves.
The lighting design has to contend with some of the limitations of the Missing Persons space itself, and is compromised of several strands of fairy-lights that are turned on and off in clusters or one-by-one. It takes to the task well enough of creating distinctions between the jumps in universes, but some moments of darkness would have well-suited the night.
In all, Mira Theatrical have put together an entertaining night of theatre relying fairly heavily on a stellar play. There’s plenty of laughs, but unfortunately, there’s never any danger or real emotion to make it into the cracking theatre it could have been.